Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mohs Definitely

No posts till Monday night, I'm afraid. I'm getting my dreaded "Mohs surgery" tomorrow, and I'm told it's an all-day party. I'll let you click here
Wikipedia for the wikipedia entry with photo goodness (barf) because I don't have the stones to really dissect it all for you (hah! get it?! dissect!? heh....GULP!). Needless to say, I'm not entirely psyched about my Monday. Which is only four days before Friday, on which I will be getting the squamous cell thingy on my chest cut out too.

I suppose if you have to have multiple dermatological excisions, you might as well stack 'em up, right? Right? Or, as my transplant doctor said, "Your bone marrow is doing great. Now you just need to make sure you have some skin left to enjoy it." Well, I guess that's up to "Dr. Mohs," isn't it?

Determining Your "A**hole Footprint"

I can't really write a good intro to this Vanity Fair article because I am laughing so hard.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tree At My Window

Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.
Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.
But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.
That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

The tree on Robert Frost's farm in Derry NH that inspired that poem will be cut down today. It's "only" a tree (and one with a rotted trunk that is in danger of bringing it down onto the farmhouse), but it's a link to the man and his work nonetheless. Descendants and devotees of Frost will be on hand to commemorate Frost's work and to see the tree off into that great forest in the sky, which I think is great. Rather than tie themselves to the tree in protest, or set out to blame someone for the tree's condition, admirers are mourning the loss in a quintessentially Frostian way: accepting that all things have their season.

It can be hard to let go of things that have meaning to us beyond their seeming utility. Anyone who has gone through the personal effects of a lost loved one can attest to the difficulty in physically placing even something like old matchbooks into a trash bag. You know in your head that People Are Not Things, but something about touching their wallet, their old jacket, or even their old tree makes you feel like that touch will guarantee your ongoing connection to the memories and feelings you love so much and can't bear to lose. I have my Dad's watch, I have his (unused!) earplugs from his days as a steelworker, I have a collection of random post-it notes ("Do you still need that velcro thingy you were asking about? I found it! Love Yur Faither") and letters he'd sent me in college or left around my house when he visited. These are the things that would break my heart to lose because they are, for me, touchstones of what made him the man he was: a seemingly-contradictory combination of eccentric personality, wacky style and very old-school work ethic. I had a lot more of his stuff after he first died, but as months went by I realized that, with my mom's (eagerly-granted) permission, I could probably throw away his used earplugs, his collection of single shoelaces dating back to 1977 just in case he needed one, and maybe his shopping lists from 1999. As time went by, it became easier to separate The Man from The Stuff, as the shoelaces became needless clutter and a choking hazard for his granddaughter, the old earplugs suddenly-finally-seemed gross, and the shopping lists signified nothing more than his facility with a dot-matrix printer and greenbar paper.

So a curtain will indeed be drawn between Frost's farm and the "Window Tree" today. But Frost's works are no less valuable and no less meaningful because we can no longer touch and see the tree that inspired them. Frost, his tree--and perhaps all of us someday--will live on in the stories, memories and joys we inspire in others. Any stuff we leave behind is valuable only if it helps to tell those stories; and in doing so helps our loved ones to first mourn and then celebrate us so that they can live their lives with a full and happy heart.

Because, as Frost himself said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Limbaugh Should Be Imused

A better-than-I-could-have-written-it piece at Carpetbagger on the Rush Limbaugh outrage (wherein he called military personnel who oppose the Iraq War "phony soldiers"). Rush Limbaugh, as we have said before ad nauseam (and I do mean nauseam), is a disgusting embarrassment of a human being. And I mean that in the kindest, tenderest way, Rush, seeing as you served your country so bravely as a non-phony soldier.....oh, whoops! No you didn't! My bad.

Anyone want to weigh in on why this man still has a platform? Can there really be Americans who will not find his remarks to be a moral outrage? How is Imus fired but Limbaugh employed? Riiight. It must be the liberal media's control of our airwaves.

Smug Is As Smug Does

A very illustrative piece by Joe Conason today on Bush's smugness in the months leading up to invading Iraq. His last line says it best: "I'm optimistic because I believe I'm right," replied the obtuse Bush. "I'm at peace with myself." That smug statement -- uttered by a man who had no idea what he was talking about and no interest in what anyone else believed -- could be the epitaph for his presidency.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Putting the "Communicable" into "Community Learning Center"

It's Bambina's third week of preschool and--surprise, surprise--she came down with her first cold of the year this evening. If you are a parent you will identify with my feelings of simultaneous despair and sympathy: a combination of "Aww, hell" and "Poor wee lamb." You realize when helping a preschooler through the miserable panoply of cold symptoms that nose-blowing is not an innate skill, nor is finding the sleep position that allows you to get a modicum of rest without backing the phlegm up into your throat. Gross, I know. But if we can't be candid here, darlings, where on earth can we be?

Bambina does not get sick that often, so everytime she does I learn something new. Mostly because I flip out and start combing the CDC website for information on such frightening (and no doubt Outbreak-worthy) symptoms as "runny nose" and "low grade fever." I learned tonight that over-the-counter cold remedies have not been proven, in any of multiple studies, to have any effect on preschooler's colds, be it on severity or duration. Antihistamines also do not work. (A particularly poignant fact since Benadryl's inventor, George Rieveschl, passed away today. A generation of airplane-traveling parents salutes you, Dr. Rieveschl!). The only solution is hydration, rest if necessary, and perhaps Motrin or Acetaminophen, if the child seems to need it. No magic ways of making a preschooler's cold either easier or shorter, which of course is a tremendous blow to the innate maternal need to ease your kid's physical pains.

So I'm sitting in my bed with the monitor on, listening to her sniffle and breathe boogers. I, of course, will not be the one to go to her at night if she needs anything since I'm trying to cut down on my rhinovirus uptake for the next 9 months or so. This is a deeply distressing fact, even though I know she will be well taken-care of by people who would throw themselves under a bus for her. It's not the concern for lack of care that bugs me; it's the fact that I can't really hug her or sit with her while she's sharing droplets via hand and mouth. The doctor warned me back in April that this would happen, but we all agreed at the time that the paramount concern besides my health was ensuring Bambina had as normal a life as possible. That meant sending her to preschool, which meant running the risk of her bringing home a little something from Abby or Tyler (there's always an Abby or a Tyler, isn't there?), which meant me keeping my distance for a week or so till she wasn't contagious. So here we are. And there she is. Talk about subverting the innate maternal instinct, huh?

The good news is that Bambina is loving preschool, is making friends (if three year-olds can consider any human besides themselves as truly relevant), and is learning so many new things. For instance, just the other day she mentioned that "Ando"* (*names all changed) is in her class. I asked if Ando is a boy or a girl. She said, "Ando a boy.[two second pause] He pee standing up." (See? Human anatomy!) She also said authoritatively while doing a puzzle with me, "Mama, you not concern yourself with my pieces. You just worry 'bout yourself, Danielle!" I asked her about Danielle: "She bossy." (Learning teacher-speak for "shut your cakehole, Miss Four Year Old!"). I then asked her if she and Ando were friends: "No. I not like Ando." "Well, why not?!" "He have runny boogers."

Wait a minute.....!

When I next see Ando's mommy (oh, like, next year!) I'm going to thank her for sending Chronic Cattarh Ando to school when she should have kept his dreepy a** home watching SpongeBob.

At any rate, the subject of Ando gave me the impetus to have my feminist discussion with Bambina about how she is not *missing* a penis; that girls just don't need one. It arose today as she attempted to pee standing up, announcing to me that "I have a penis!" "No, sweet girl, you don't." "Yes I do! Look! Me standing up!" I resisted the urge to Lloyd Bentsen her with "Sweet Girl, I know penis; I have worked with penis. You, sweetie pie, do NOT have a penis," but I resisted, recognizing that I haven't shown her the tape of that debate yet. But I did take advantage of my last year of making jokes she won't get by saying, "But on that topic, we're having meatballs for dinner. Wash your hands and come downstairs."

Mother of the year, baby, mother of the year. ;)

Cliff Notes Won't Help You

Some welcome news from today's OC Register:

New citizenship exam emphasizes principles
Can you name one of the country’s longest rivers? A Native American tribe? What makes Benjamin Franklin famous? Immigrants aspiring to become U.S. citizens will be expected to answer these and other questions on a new naturalization exam that officials hope will deepen their understanding of civics and history and discourage rote memorization of facts and figures.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been working on the test redesign for more than two years and administered a pilot version to more than 6,000 volunteer applicants. On Thursday, the agency released the final set of 100 test questions that immigrants should study to prepare for the exam, which will be given in their interview to become U.S. citizens starting in October 2008. The goal of the redesign is to encourage a deeper understanding of U.S. government and an attachment the country and its principles. “Citizenship is not only a benefit but it’s also an identity,” said Alfonso Aguilar, chief of the agency's office of citizenship.

I am delighted at these changes, and let me tell you why. When I took the citizenship exam back in the late 80's I answered (among others) the following question: "Which state has the only unicameral legislature?" Wow. Did knowing that make me any more qualified to become an American than anyone who didn't know the answer? Any native-born Americans out there who don't know the answer to that one? Do you feel, as a result, that you should turn in your passport? I remember thinking at the time that I was undergoing the most ridiculous process if that was the sum total of all I was expected to know about America in order to join the team. I also answered "Name the Secretary of State" (James Baker) and "Is he elected or appointed?" (Appointed). She shoots she scores!!! Being a history buff did not hurt in the least. My poor Mum, however, was asked "Name the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army," a tricky two-level question requiring you to know both that the Continental Army was so named during the Revolutionary War, and that George Washington was therefore the leader of same. If you don't know the first part, you can't answer the question asked. Luckily she nailed it, but you can certainly understand how someone might not and yet might still make a fantastic, law-abiding, tax-paying American citizen of the most unimpeachable national loyalty.

So I'm delighted, nay thrilled, to see that the questions will attempt to focus a little more on the meaning of being American and the significance of the Constitution, rather than on what the Senate cafeteria serves on Wednesdays.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival! 中秋节

It's the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar! And that means it's time to hang those lanterns, gather round the family, and eat mooncakes under the night sky.

We're making mooncakes this afternoon and ordering Chinese food to eat outside tonight with the Bambina. The holiday celebrates the abundance of the harvest as well as family togetherness. So we'll think and talk about family (and friends who are family), about family members no longer with us, and no doubt about our Chinese family--Bambina's "Chinese mother" and "Chinese father" whom we will never know but will always acknowledge as real people in our lives. We call them Chinese mother and Chinese father, since your mother is the one who gave birth to you, but your Mama is the one who raises you and loves you forever. It helps in explaining adoption to a 3 year-old, to say that some people have one lady who is both their mother and their mama, and other people have two ladies: one who is their mother and another who is their mama. Bambina gets this explanation, so it's the one we use. "Birthmother" and "biological parents" are terms lost on a preschooler.

Anyway, even if you are not East Asian, how about calling your family just to say hi, if you can't get together--and then how about looking up at the moon and pondering the abundance in your life, just for tonight?

You don't need mooncakes to be thankful for life's harvest.

There Are No Gays In Iran? Just Look Up.

So said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia yesterday:
"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country...In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don't know who has told you that we have it."

That might be because he's hoping to execute them all.

I'm stunned this man receives a warm reception anywhere in the United States. I'm also trying to understand why the idea of clearing your country of homosexuals ("judenrein," anyone?) or denying they exist even in the face of sickening photos like that above, is considered a "viewpoint." As in, "we should create a university environment where all viewpoints can be heard."

Someone enlighten me.

photo courtesy of

UPDATE: Vigilante has a good piece on the Columbia appearance:

And also some thoughts over at BaseballCrank:


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gimme an F'ing Break, Sally

Here is a link to Sally Kohn's diary on Daily Kos. I generally don't read Kos simply because it pisses me off so much, being a complete lefty fat-headed site (with all due respect to those of you who may love it). But doesn't Kohn's post highlight a few ugly facts, perhaps, about the state of progressives at the moment? If Kohn's words resonate among the readers of Kos, I completely despair. I am no friend to George Bush, but this kind of article reminds me of the mindless Clinton haters, the ones who actually believed he'd had his friends killed and that he obviously ran/runs some kind of satanic liberal blow job-receiving cabal of people trying to turn the US communist, gay and immoral. It saddens me beyond belief to see people on the left engaging in the same kind of almost-laughable, mindless, stupid hate. Bush is a complete failure, morally, politically and intellectually. He is an embarrassment and an ongoing liability of enormous potential danger to the United States and our allies. I dislike him on such a veritable rainbow of levels that I find it difficult to know where one shade of dislike starts and another ends. But to go where Sally goes? Unbelievable.

In case you're wondering, her post begins like this:
"I know I'm a Jewish lesbian and he'd probably have me killed. But still, the guy speaks some blunt truths about the Bush Administration that make me swoon...Okay, I admit it. Part of it is that he just looks cuddly. Possibly cuddly enough to turn me straight. I think he kind of looks like Kermit the Frog. Sort of. With smaller eyes. But that’s not all… I want to be very clear. There are certainly many things about Ahmadinejad that I abhor — locking up dissidents, executing of gay folks, denying the fact of the Holocaust, potentially adding another dangerous nuclear power to the world and, in general, stifling democracy. Even still, I can’t help but be turned on by his frank rhetoric calling out the horrors of the Bush Administration and, for that matter, generations of US foreign policy preceding."

Pardon my french, but Sally Kohn is a f*^&ing moron. Ahmadinejad tortures and kills people, he imprisons dissidents, he spreads hate, he has burgeoning nuclear capability--but HEY! HE HATES GEORGE BUSH AS MUCH AS I DO! HE CAN'T BE ALL BAD!! Because a despicable human being dislikes Bush, he's now "cute"? He makes you "swoon?" Who writes this sh*t about a piece of human garbage like Ahmadinejad and expects to ever be taken seriously again?

Sally is a mess, and this post unfortunately displays the sad extent of it. Ahmadinejad is a hateful, evil and dangerous man.

You know, the kind of guy only a Bush-hater--and, more importantly, a self-hater--could love.


Friday, September 21, 2007

The Yom Kippur That Isn't

So I had this whole Yom Kippur post I was working on. I was struggling with it, trying to find a way to say that it's a very important and necessary holiday, but one I struggle with, especially in my current situation. The liturgy is such that there is a lot of prostrating oneself before God and tapping one's chest while reciting sins you and the community have committed. Much of the service uses the allegory of The Book of Life for the coming year, ie, that God is--as we speak--either inscribing your name in it, or He is not.

Maybe I struggle with it because the fact of wondering if I’d really be around next year was a little bit too real sometimes, and perhaps because the notion of begging God for forgiveness so you can “live” just seemed like too much self-flagellation for a human with a modicum of dignity. Not to mention my thoughts at various times during the past year wondering when God Himself, if he had a shred of decency, was going to pick a day to fast and apologize for his sins of commission and omission involving ME.

Having said that, I do recognize that the entire purpose of the holiday is to act and think with humility and without self-satisfaction (hence no stiff-necked “too much self-flagellation!” declarations). It is to get you to a place spiritually where you are able to be honest with yourself and God about what atonement is required and what work you need to do to be a better person in the coming year. I do get it. I understand it. I just find the liturgy to be a stumbling block to me really embracing the holiday especially during seasons when one’s life is not awash in sunshine and lollipops.

I guess my ambivalence is coming from a desire to not be ambivalent. I don’t want to go through the motions of atoning where I end up mouthing some insincere pseudo-confession that just ends up being one more instance of the very sin I’m supposedly confessing. I’m not committed to being a lying, thieving, defaming jerk in 5768; I just don’t really feel like I’m in a place where I can credibly and spiritually do right by the intent of the holiday to atone for 5767.

So this is the Yom Kippur 2007 post that wasn't. I was trying to find some articulate and learned way to say that I'm taking the year off from atoning. I had words by Martin Buber, the Rambam, you name it to try to explain. But all those wise words still failed to convey the nuances and shades of how I am feeling this time around.

And then I remembered this, which nails it like only this philosopher can:

There's an empty spot I've always had inside me. I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service, but those were dead ends! I think this chair is the answer. --Homer Simpson

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My 365 Step Program

Today is Day 114 in my neverending, yet so far thankfully unremarkable, bone marrow saga. The day holds no particular significance, but it does confirm my belief that the notion of taking this whole thing "day by day" is wildly off the mark, at least for me. I know the day by day approach works for alcoholism recovery, for counting down the last three weeks of a job you can't wait to leave, etc. But for a 365 day house arrest it simply guarantees constant frustration. To be fair, it's not like I'm in a Turkish prison eating cockroaches in the dark. I have pretty swank digs, I've got my family, I've got this laptop--my lifeline to the outside world. No one need have a pity party for me. Even in my current good but precarious health, I'm still doing exponentially better than much of the world's population, so gratitude for my blessings is a given.

However. If I got up every day and said, "Hey! Today is Day 113, 114, 115..." I'd probably open a vein. Obviously I am fully cognizant of the fact that every day post-May 29, 2007 that I wake up and say anything is a beautiful day. Believe me. But the long slog through 365 days where you can't really go anywhere or do anything, where you can't walk your kid into her preschool, meet her teachers or her friends, or just take her to the library; where you can't buy your own underwear or deodorant, can't offer any real help around the house (no laundry, no cleaning, no going to the basement, no touching or inhaling cleaning materials) even though you are the only person who actually would have the time to get a ton of stuff accomplished, truly is a very long psychological slog.

So I've given up the notion of taking anything "day by day" and moved on instead to "random milestone by random milestone." So we've had the 100 days. We will now move on to November 30th, a day that is all about the math. On November 30th I will have officially completed more of the 365 days than those that remain till next May. It's my 50% +1 milestone. Thereafter, we will celebrate at 12:01am on January 1, 2008. Because once it's 2008, I no longer have to say that I'll be better NEXT year; it will be THIS year. And, really, once you're in January, how far away is May really? If you're doing it day-by-day it's 150 days is what it is! But if you're counting down through the Hallmark holidays, it's but a small wisp of time till I'm back in the game.

And believe me, that game is gonna get UGLY. I've got lots of missed shoe shopping to make up for. How much? Oh, about 365 days worth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh No He Dih'nt!

Although he claims he does not remember making the statement, Jesse Jackson, while in South Carolina, recently accused Barack Obama of "acting like he's white" in response to the case of the "Jena 6."

The Jena situation is pretty horrifying, a good summary of which you can get on Wikipedia. The short story is that there was a "white only tree" on the town's high school grounds, a black kid sat under it, the next day three nooses were hanging from it, the white perpetrators were not expelled because the superintendent and school board didn't think anything really terrible had occurred since it was "an innocent prank," a peaceful sit-in under the white tree was broken up by police, racial tensions rose, a white kid got beaten up by some black kids, those 6 black kids were charged with second degree attempted murder (one kid was charged with "assault with a deadly weapon," that weapon being HIS SHOES), even though the white kid was treated at a hospital and released within a couple of hours. There's a lot more, but that's the ugly gist of it.

I take issue with Jackson's comment for two primary reasons. One, to suggest that a presidential candidate who does not suspend his campaign and rush to Louisiana to register voters and protest must be apathetic about racism is simply ludicrous. After all, if Obama started doing that, what would Jesse Jackson do? Isn't this Jesse's raison d'etre? I think Obama has made his thoughts on Jena--and more importantly--the ongoing issues it represents crystal clear:
“When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions. This isn’t just Jena’s problem; it’s America’s problem.” “There are a number of signs that the system is not working in this case. It’s a problem when criminal charges are brought against some students for fighting, but not others. It’s a problem when a public defender doesn’t call any witnesses. And it’s a problem when a prosecutor decides to try teenagers as adults for a school fight, a charge that could leave them in jail for the majority of their lives. That is why I join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on the judge to consider all the relevant factors and calling on the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in this case. And I, along with other members of the CBC, will continue to monitor this case closely.”

“Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena 6 or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for us to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair. We must ensure that both victims and defendants can receive equal justice under the law, regardless of race, wealth, or other circumstances.”

Second, to imply that "acting like he's white" means he doesn't care that pre-Jim Crow attitudes still prevail in Louisiana is patently offensive. This case is a travesty of justice. Jena's residents ought to be ashamed that they ever allowed a "white only tree" to exist, even unofficially, among their children. And they ought to further hang their heads in shame that the hanging of nooses was ever for a millisecond considered "an innocent prank." Nooses hanging from trees have meaning to African-Americans. Loaded, frightening, soul-deep meaning. Everyone knows it if they walk for a moment in another person's shoes. The "pranksters" even knew it, which is why they didn't go out and buy balloons or flags for the tree but instead chose rope. No honest person with a shred of human decency can say that nooses hanging from a tree in the American South are meant as anything but a loaded, evil statement. Speaking as a Jew, I can say with total conviction that a swastika spray-painted on your place of worship is "just a prank" only to those who have had the luxury of never feeling the weight of what the symbol represents. Saying that the kids did not understand that weight--and therefore are not guilty of anything--is not a defense. In fact, to my mind, it's a further indictment of the parents and the community who didn't find it important to teach their kids either 7th grade-level American history or basic respect for other human beings.

In this day and age, racism of the kind that occurred in Jena should be considered un-American. Nooses should be considered a kind of domestic terrorism. Towns who blink at it should feel the full weight of the United States Justice Department, as well as the disapprobation of an embarrassed American populace. They should know that their world will come crashing down around them economically and reputationally, visited upon them by Jesse Jackson himself.

Fred Thompson's Body Count Recount

I love this feature in the WaPo wherein a presidential candidate is awarded a certain number of "pinocchios" for statements of dubious veracity. The link below takes you to the article discussing the following rather grandiose statement by Fred Thompson:

"You know, you look back over our history, and it doesn't take you long to realize that our people have shed more blood for other people's liberty than any other combination of nations in the history of the world.'' Stump speech in Des Moines, Sept. 7

The article does a better job than I can of taking this ridiculous statement apart and consigning it to the Jingoism Trash Can where it belongs. It simply begs the question of why such a remark was even necessary to make. Any WWII veterans in the audience would already have known that Russia and Britain lost MILLIONS of people in two world wars. And why does it have to be about numbers? Isn't it patriotic enough to say that, when called upon, the US military answers that call--honorably--regardless of nation? Perhaps Thompson is trying to be Reaganesque? You know, making offhanded "everybody knows it's true even though it's really baseless" assertions?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Made In America: The Four Door Posturepedic

Y'all. I love this snippet from the BBC. I think it shows, more than perhaps any kind of historical event, current political contretemps or pop culture trivia, exactly how different the United States is to Britain. I don't know about you, but I have engaged in this "very dangerous" behavior every time I've moved, and I've yet to have it covered in a national newspaper.

Police have condemned a driver who balanced a mattress on top of his car and then held on to it as he drove along a busy motorway. His passenger was also spotted grabbing on to the mattress as the Citroen Xsara headed north towards Gloucester along the M5 near Bristol on Monday morning.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said the action was very dangerous. "If an item was not properly secured we would stop the vehicle and take appropriate action," he said. Paul Waller, of Rugby, a passenger in a nearby car who took a picture of the rooftop mattress, said: "It was catching the wind and looked very dangerous, so we didn't stay behind it for long. "It could have caused an accident - the car was travelling at more than 40mph."

House Hunting Heartburn

The search for a new house continues, now going into its 5th month. A few thoughts have struck me as we have slogged through the current housing market lo these past few months and that I wish to communicate to the many good people of Metro Boston who I am hoping will sell me their house. Consider it my Tim Gunn's Guide to House Selling Style.

1. The "downturn" has not yet reached Eastern Massachusetts. Or, at least, the memo that you can't ask $900,000 for 2,000 square feet of crap has yet to reach you, hasn't it? We have looked at so many places (by which I mean that I have sat in the car, only going in to see pre-vetted, empty homes) that have what realtors call "good bones" and "potential." Some with no central AC, some with windows from 1954, some with kitchen appliances from 1989. All in dire need of a $100,000 price reduction to be remotely saleable.

2. The three key elements of selling your property are location, condition and price. So if your house is in a great location and is in decent condition but still is not selling? You have to adjust your price. It's a sad, unjust but nonetheless accurate statement.

3. Your house is not worth what YOU think it is worth. It is worth what the market thinks it is worth. Believe me, having just sold my house in DC, I understand the feeling of "how can they offer me that 'low' price for this home? Look at all the work I put into it! My baby daughter slept in that room! We have so many great memories in this house! This house is a gem from top to bottom! I love this house and it's worth X and not a penny less." It's all true IN MY HEAD. But it's not true in the market.

4. If you really want to sell your house, remove about 2/3 of your belongings to storage. And take down the menorahs and crucifixes and family pictures. I don't come to see your house to see YOUR house; I come to see MY potential house. I can't see that if I'm seeing Jesus portraits in every single room, 42 pieces of furniture crammed into your master bedroom, or draperies that would not look out of place in Mary Tyler Moore's apartment. Just minimize, minimize, minimize so your house's charm can shine through. Oh--and if any part of your house description uses the words "wood paneling," or "chintz draperies" consider a small redecoration before listing the house.

5. And finally: there is no substitute for air freshener. No offense, but every family has a particular smell, every house has a particular smell that you don't even notice anymore because it's so intrinsically yours. Assume it contains traces of your dog, your feet, your BO, your laundry detergent, your funky fridge and your kids' belongings. Seriously. Assume your house has an odor that must be mitigated. Because if I can smell it gently through my N95 super-powerful 99% microbe-filtering mask (and I always do), you know it's punching healthy potential buyers in the face. And again, I can't picture your house as MY house if all I can smell is YOU.

Please take that in the kind, tender way in which it was intended.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Today would have been my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. It boggles the mind, doesn't it, that the Scottish Costanzas kept the love young and hot for almost 39 years? A couple of crazy kids they were.

We still miss you, JP. We especially miss you remembering today's big day ON THE DAY and running out to the supermarket to buy Mom something. She still speaks fondly of those "anniversary rutabagas" back in '92 and the "anniversary Whitmans Sampler" in '01. I keed, I keed! However you slice it ("anniversary Wonder Bread of '86"), you and Mom had a marriage that showed your children, in all the important ways, what a marriage really ought to be. And since there isn't really anything else that can be said, I'm providing some thoughts on marriage that always remind me of you and Mom.

A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year. --Paul Sweeney

My husband and I have never considered divorce... murder sometimes, but never divorce.
--Dr. Joyce Brothers

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong admit it;
Whenever you're right shut up.
--Ogden Nash

I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. --Rita Rudner

It destroys one's nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being.
--Benjamin Disraeli

In the early years, you fight because you don't understand each other. In the later years, you fight because you do. ~Joan Didion

And the final words from Scotland's Own Billy Connolly:
Marriage is a wonderful invention; then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.

Once You Go Jack, You'll Never Go Back

I just watched the first two episodes of the British series Torchwood. It's a spinoff of Doctor Who focusing on Captain Jack Harkness, the hunky immortal "time agent" who now works secretly to prepare Earth for the 21st Century, when a battle with aliens will change everything.

The show is entertaining on a sci-fi level with cool gadgets and way better production values than Doctor Who. It's creepy and funny and dark. It's also fabulous on other levels too. First of all, let’s just say it up front: John Barrowman, the actor who plays Captain Jack, is gorgeous. He looks like Tom Cruise wishes he really looked. Women (who, me?) want to bed him and men want to be him. In fact, one of the things that makes Captain Jack such a great character—and Torchwood such an interesting and unique show--is that men want to bed him too, and he’s completely cool with that. In a total departure for science fiction, his character is bisexual. And the best part about this show is that his bisexuality is presented (if it’s even “presented” at all) as no big deal. It’s a character element but it’s not at all a focus of the show. He’s written as a person who happens to be bisexual (whaaaat?!!), not as a bisexual or gay character who must “act gay.” You know what I’m saying if you’ve watched American television. The gay character who has to be “clearly gay” so that no one is threatened by him. After I watched both episodes and read about his character (oh like you’ve never looked up a hot guy’s show online?!!), I was immediately struck by the difference between “Just Jack” of Will and Grace (who, truth be told, I found funny for lots of reasons) and “Captain Jack” of Torchwood. It hadn’t occurred to me how remarkable it was that the writers were being actual grown-ups about presenting a non-hetero character and trusting that the audience would be able to grasp the nuances, just as they are trusted to do with hetero characters.

It also reminded me of the insane puritanical streak that runs through American society. John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack, is gay. He has never hidden that fact, has a partner, and still manages to have a career where men who watch science fiction still want to be him regardless. What is it about American society and television that so many actors feel they have to stay closeted to stay marketable? I’ve heard the myth that gay men will not be “believable” in roles opposite female love interests. Hello! Would I be any less interested in Wentworth Miller’s assets if I knew he shared them with a man at home? Not likely! In fact, I might just find that intriguing… ;) Seriously. Was I going to marry Wentworth and have babies anyway? Those odds were pretty steep to begin with, so what if they are now exponentially worse? It doesn’t change the fact that hot is hot, gay or straight.

But maybe the issue is that it still matters to the men who run Hollywood? Maybe if you see a person who happens to be gay and all you are able to discern is his G-A-Y-N-E-S-S, you aren’t able to envision him kissing a woman onscreen. But isn’t that your lack rather than his? And after all, isn’t it called ACTING for a reason? I mean, the people who gave us Chandler and Monica, the least believable and lowest-chemistry couple in TV-dom; and Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, the least believable couple in moviedom, can’t possibly find a romantic hetero role for a gay actor? That’s bullsh*t and we all know it, thank you Rock Hudson.

Anyway, that’s my mini-rant. I get like that sometimes; please ignore me. But do get BBC America and watch Torchwood. You can thank me later after you’ve wallpapered your computer with Captain Jack.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Art of Internet Criticism

I haven't laughed so hard in a very long time. The hilarious mixture of gamer nerd, early 90's dork and total sarcasm just makes me happy. YS RLY.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy New Year 5768

It's that time of year again; today is Rosh Hashanah. Or as they called it when we lived in Georgia, "Jewish New Year." At which we ate "Jewish Egg Bread," which the rest of the planet just calls "challah." Good times, those years being a Jew in Georgia....or not.

Anyway--L'Shanah Tova to all the Jews in the house. Happy Thursday to everyone else. :)

I've been AWOL from the Haggis, as the three of you may have noticed. Busy days, my friends. Busy days. You know, sitting around the house and all that. Although still looking for a new house that is neither a complete teardown nor $1 million dollars. And still doing my weekly forays to Dana Farber. Yesterday was a miserable day. I had signed up to do a clinical study of a drug that might prevent GVHD. The drug itself has almost zero side effects and the upside, if it works, is all sunshine and lollipops (ie, reduced GVHD) for me. So of course I was game to do it, even though they said it would be a 6-8 hour infusion. I was still game until I got there, got the IV in a good vein, settled in to watch TV and blog all day, and heard, "Okay, I'm giving you 50 milligrams of benadryl by IV so you'll be sleepy very soon." I don't recall if I've ever written about the hell that is Benadryl via IV. Back in the bad old days when I was getting platelet transfusions twice a week, I always got benadryl as a premedication to prevent hives. Every single day I got home from those transfusions I was in a complete fog, suffered narcolepsy, and in general felt like barfing. That was with 15mg. Good Lord, y'all. 50 effing milligrams of Benadryl in a 110 pound woman just about finished me off. I slept for 3 hours at DF, slept from 4 till about 6 at home, then slept again from 7 till 9:45. And THEN fell back asleep from midnight to 7am!

The worst part? I missed the Rosh Hashanah brisket (for my southern friends: "Jewish slow-roasted meat") and potato kugel ("Jewish savory noodle pudding"), missed the holiday blessings ("Jewish grace"), missed the whole d*mn night ("the whole d*mn Jewish night"). That's the last time I sign a study consent form without adding a No Benadryl clause. In fact, when all of this is over, I swear I will never even look at another bottle of benadryl again. This is good news for you, my friends, because it means I'll be too afraid to surreptitiously check out your medicine cabinet when I come to visit and have to go to the bathroom. Everybody wins!

I'm breaking the rules ("Very Serious Jewish Holiday Rules") by blogging today. But G-d won't mind since I'm blogging about the holiday. And because I'd otherwise be doing other prohibited things much worse than typing on a computer... The rest of the clan is at temple ("Jewish Church;" Okay, I'll stop now!), including Bambina. She has been on fire lately. Every day she says she is someone else. Mostly it's been "Miss Catherine" her teacher from The Little Gym, and I have to be Bambina learning to walk on the balance beam. That seems like a pretty thin plot doesn't it? And yet we have to do it for 2 full hours. Until she decides she's someone else and I have to be that person's dog or baby or something. Everyone in the house is desperate for this phase to pass because if I hear her shout out at 2am one more time, "Mama! I'm Miss Catherine!" or if we have to pretend to be looking for a hiding Miss Catherine at the gym one more time, I'm going to poke my own eyes out. And I'm going to go back to that Little Gym and punch Miss Catherine in the face.

I was trying to get her off Miss C and onto someone else, so I said, "What other teachers could you be? What about Man Teacher Pat?" (Man Teacher Pat is what she calls the one male teacher at the gym). Her response? "No. I not want to be Man Teacher Pat. I not like Man Teacher Pat. He has yucky breath." I then asked her if she was going to be Miss C "on a daily basis" now. She flipped out: "No! I not a daily basis! I Miss Catherine! I not a daily basis!" No amount of talking could get her to understand that Adaily Basis was not a strange person being sneaked into the Story of The Little Gym. So I abandoned my explanation in favor of being Miss Catherine's fellow teacher Miss Nicki, who apparently had breath of a quality that qualified her for inclusion in said story.

Once I finally managed to get her off The Little Gym one-act play, we started talking about dreams because she's had a few night terrors of late. She recalls nothing of them but they are incredibly distressing to witness. So she says she knows what dreams are, and that there are good dreams and bad dreams. Hers are "mostly good." She recently woke up and told me she had had a dream. I excitedly asked her what happened in the dream. Perhaps more disturbing to a parent than seeing a night terror, she replied, "I dreamed I was a meatball!" and then laughed like John Belushi. Chilling, I tell you. Chilling. Although less chilling than when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up and she answered, "An ear."

So that's my story. Now I'd better log off and get reverent. Which means, "go take a shower before my Future Ear gets back and I have to learn the balance beam again."

Happy New Year, y'all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Heart Tim Gunn

I'm taking all kinds of sh*t at home for this, but y'all, I am LOVING "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" on the Bravo Network. He is a less-frenetic but no-less entertaining version of Queer Eye, Bravo's old show.

Stylist Emeriti, shall we say, from Project Runway, Gunn and sidekick, the still-beautiful Veronica Webb guide hapless women toward style and life upgrades. The first show was about a mom who dressed, for lack of a better term, like a wealthy slut. She went to a PTA meeting in--I sh*t you not--a cleavage-revealing deep V-neck black dress, and couldn't figure out why she wasn't making friends with the other moms. Hmmmm...I wonder. She was completely breast-obsessed, mostly because she was youth-obsessed. And she was at the age where she was fooling no one but herself. The show is so great because Tim Gunn is so kind (he completely gets why she's dressing like she's dressing) but direct (he can't hide his contempt for some of the things hanging in her closet, as if he's standing in a whorehouse circa 1983: "that looks like a shaved hamster," "that is a whole lot of nasty."). The best moments of the show include the post-closet clean-out when he announces that "Veronica will now need to look through your underwear drawer" and you can immediately see the mental arithmetic going on (ladies, don't pretend you wouldn't be doing the same thing!), "Oh my god, is this laundry week? What are they gonna find in there that I haven't looked at in months? Is my ratty bra on the top? TELL ME I threw away the ripped purple thong!" It's schadenfreude of the best kind.

I'm not sure how else to describe it, except to say that it's similar to "What Not to Wear," only with less focus on making the subject feel embarrassed about their clothing choices and with more focus on having her outside presentation reflect the real inside that has always been there. His motto is "Your style, my rules," meaning that you don't see a different person at the end of the show, but you do see a person more aware of what they are projecting via their external presentation ("I cannot control how I am perceived. I can only control how I am presented.") He has his list of 10 Must-Haves for every closet, including obviously a black dress, a white shirt, and one that never occurred to me: the "Sweat Pants Alternative."

I hesitate to kvell too much more over this program since the level of domestic ribbing I'm receiving is already pretty elevated. Just watch it and tell me you don't heart Tim Gunn too.

He and Veronica can come on over and look through my underwear drawer any time they desire.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Top 100 TV Shows

As listed in TIME Magazine, for your Monday AM procrastination.
Some of you baby boomers are gonna have to help us out on a couple of them, e.g., The Ernie Kovacs Show. I'm not sure I agree with all of them but I do agree with their designation, "MTV 1981-1992." I'm pretty sure that's when they stopped running actual music videos in favor of stupid reality shows having nothing to do with music. And speaking of year designations (ie, Dick York vs. Dick Sargent), I take issue with the omission of Bewitched. Like, what gets Leave it to Beaver on the list but keeps I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched off it? The presence or absence of Jerry Mathers? Whatever the reason, I strongly protest. And HELLLOOOOO? No "Rhoda?" Please! A Valerie Harper-Cloris Leachman double scoop of sassy dame-itude? THAT needed to be on the list, and how.

I leave you to offer your opinions...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Has He or Hasn't He?

Moving directly past the whole "is this video legit and is he still alive?" issue (yes it is, yes he is because we've been busy in Iraq rather than pursuing him), I'd just like to ask you one question:

Has OBL had work done?

I know they're saying he has a fake beard because he may be hiding in Malaysia or somewhere near (what?! NOT Basra or Tikrit?). But beyond the beard, as the guy on Awful Plastic Surgery says to avoid legal troubles, "he looks....different, doesn't he?" Younger but sicker? A bad brow lift? I'm not sure. The past 6 years may have been good to him propaganda-wise, but they have clearly been unkind to his overall Scary Tribal Warlord image. Especially since this administration obviously doesn't find him scary enough to bother tracking down.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The First Hundred Days

Albeit a wee bit anticlimactic since I've already enjoyed my pizza binge and Thai food bender, today is Day 100 in the ongoing (seemingly neverending?) saga of E and her bone marrow. It was so anticlimactic that I was reminded of it only by looking at the calendar and seeing that I had, months ago, written in huge letters "MAMA'S HUNDREDTH DAY!!!" as if I was already tasting the spring rolls...

Nevertheless I figured I would acknowledge the day since I've made such a big deal out of it since April. At the very least, even knowing that there is no real medical significance to it beyond the fact that imminent danger from cooked food has passed, it's still kind of nice to still be here to find the day anticlimactic. In the daily grind of getting better it is surprisingly easy to forget sometimes that it was only January when I was in the hospital with a 104 fever, being told by the doctors that now might be the time to ensure my affairs were in order. To be fair, I think my brain intentionally makes me forget that day, so traumatic it was to be delivered that information at 34 years old with a small child at home. But I think that today, on Day 100, it is helpful to recall that night because it was the beginning of my transplant process. It was the night I could no longer kid myself that life was going to return to normal, that my disease was not progressing, that I was going to escape having to face it head-on. It was the night, quite frankly, that we prayed I'd live to be able to get a transplant. So now, transplant underway, as I worry about getting GVHD or about getting a massive infection, it's good to remember that I'm still extraordinarily lucky to be alive to be worrying about it. And that's never a bad feeling to have.

So what grand words do I have on this, the day I've been alive 100 days? First, on a personal level, that there will never be words adequate enough to thank my donor who, more than anyone, has made these 100 days possible. Without her, it's all just doctors and hospitals and patients waiting around with no stem cells. From one small act on behalf of a stranger, my donor has given a whole family a very large chance at a normal life.

Second, on a more universal level, wonderful things can be born out of seeming catastrophes. The Chinese word 'crisis' is comprised of the characters "danger" and "opportunity..." Just kidding! That's a terrible, pseudo-intellectual cliche. It's factually correct, of course. But the lesson I have learned over the past 9 months is that the word for "crisis" is really comprised of "danger," "crapping your pants," and "cursing the God that made you."

Followed much later by total silence because you can't find the words to say thank you for all of your blessings.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mama Don't Want to Know

Yesterday two men were arraigned in a Hingham, MA court for the beating deaths of two homeless men, William P. Chrapan and David P. Lyons. One of the suspects had "I hate you" and "SS" tattooed on his forearm; they were known to have partied under a Nazi flag in one suspect's mother's basement. The two were caught in part because they severed a hand of one of the victims to show it off at a party.

Hellooooo?!!! Where is the mystery in all of this senseless murder? I need only say "SS tattoo" and "mother's basement" to send a chill down the spine of any right-thinking person. Did no one see something like this coming? Surely their mothers or fathers noticed?

Unfortunately, as with most of these cases, to notice something potentially violent in the offing you have to be a) paying attention and b) the kind of parent who might give a sh*t. Clearly, these men had nothing but people making excuses for them. One mother said, "I've never asked my son what happened; he's just told me, 'Mom it wasn't me...' I said, 'I know you could never have done this. I know your heart, and you couldn't have done it." And then comes the part of her "defense" that implicates more than her son in the tragedy (and that made me laugh out loud):

"She said she was not sure why her son has long displayed the Nazi flag in the basement of her house."

Friends, I think it is safe to say that if your son has Nazi tattoos and a Nazi flag IN YOUR HOUSE, has a friend with the word "killa" tattoed on his neck, and that he met that friend while awaiting trial on charges that he stabbed a man repeatedly just a couple of years ago, and you think he doesn't have a heinous crime "in his heart," perhaps your credibility as a character witness might be a wee bit diminished. And perhaps your (im)moral complicity in a heinous crime is increased.

All I'm saying is that if you let your kid hang a Nazi flag in your basement and you never ask him why, never demand that it be burned, never follow up to see who he's hanging out with, you really have no grounds on which to say you know your kid's "heart." You simply should know that yours is the heart that is lacking.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

My Final Post on Larry Craig

It's a quickie, so clicky.
This says it all.


Clay Ball!

I am about to admit to something so outrageous, so unforgivable, so deplorable that I almost can't wait to blurt it just to get it finally out in the open.

Friends, I think No-Hitter games are boring as all hell.

The BBDD was at the game last night (which means 'Baby Daddy' to those just joining us and who don't yet know that said BBDD dislikes being discussed on blogs except in sotto voce and in silhouette, and even then would kind of prefer to not be discussed even among people who read blogs or associate with those who do. He's like Dolly Parton's husband Carl. They've been married since she was, like, 14 and to this day no one knows what the guy even looks like. Yeah, it's exactly like that. Especially if you consider that I have boobs that, much like Carl, also have not been seen since I was 14!).

Anyway, BBDD texted "No Hitter!" during the game. I texted back, "Yawn!" He somehow finds it in his heart to put up with this perceived nonsense of mine, and I thank him for that. But consider my perspective: I go to ball games to see balls hit by baseball bats. They don't have to be out of the park; I'm not one of those fans feeding the steroid frenzy in search of "wow!" moments. I just kind of want to see a man at bat hit the ball, run a base or two, moment of suspense to see if he'll be safe or out, next batter up. I like stuff to happen, and for me "stuff" means hits and runs. I would rather watch a Sunset Tan or The Hills marathon while having my nose hairs pulled than watch a no-hitter. It just doesn't do it for me.

That said, big ups to Clay Buchholz for bringing us back to 5 games up. Even if it means this pseudo-fan finds him boring. ;)

He's Just Not That Into Us

I'm trying to think of a word that means, "frightening but not surprising; in fact, totally expected but scary and distressing nonetheless." Any ideas?

Perhaps reading this article detailing Bush's response to why the Iraqi Army was disbanded (a key element in developing the Iraqi insurgency)will help us all to conjure up the vocabulary: "Yeah, I don't remember."

We're not talking about the usual "I don't recalls," and "not to my knowledges" used by politicians when seeking to dodge a question without technically committing perjury. We're talking about a real, bona fide "Yeah, I don't remember" to one of the most fundamental contributing factors to the now-quagmire-like situation in Iraq.

Bush's response reminds me of the times I'd get busted for something during childhood and I'd offer a very quick, unreflective "I'm sorry." I used to hate her for it, but my Mom would often reply, "You're not sorry." It sounded harsh, but she was right: My "I'm sorry" really meant, "I'm sorry I just got caught." In this case, Bush's "I don't remember" actually means "I don't care; not enough to have an understanding of it in my brain, and not enough to even fake an answer."

No indeed, Bush is not stupid. He's just not that interested.