Friday, October 29, 2010


Many years ago, my roommate Maura came home from a waitressing shift having made a revelation. She'd learned that if you call a guy a pussy you can get him to do anything. She described a conversation kind of like this:

Her: Pick up my last table, would you?
Him: No, I'm ready to go home
Her: Pussy
Him: OK

This is writ large, there was more to it than that. But about 15 years ago, she and I started this campaign of calling guys "pussies" and then delighting in how clearly uncomfortable it made them.

The proud feminist I am now kind of regrets this. And then I started seeing how all these new women Republicans picked up on it and started really regretting it. Christine O'Donnell with the whole "man pants" things. Sharron Angle and Sarah Palin tossing around frequent exhortations to "man up."

It seems clear that they must believe that women are capable of elected office (at least for half a term or so). When they call a guy a "pussy," I'm pretty sure what they're calling him is a fag.

Which just underscores my old theory that the quickest way to become a star of the Republican Party is to channel your inner 6th grade bully. And it's not really a problem that Harry Reid and Chris Coons don't care if you call them "fag" (grown ups aren't insulted by childish nonsense like that).

These ladies are dog whistling at their base. And they think their base is made up of a bunch of assholes. Which it probably is.


This is an extended clip from The Rachel Maddow Show of her talking to Joe Miller supporters. I'd be willing to bet, dollars to donuts, that all three of the people she talks to have spent a lot of time in front of their TVs watching Fox News. Just a few years ago, we might have been surprised that people who clearly spend a lot of time engaging in political activities and watching cable TV news could be this shockingly ignorant. Nowadays, though, it's so expected, it's banal.

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I've been thinking a lot about these freedoms the Tea Party keeps telling us that Obama is going to take away. And I think it's mostly got something to do with religion. Bill O'Reilly is always on about this non-existent War on Christmas. And Christine O'Donnell seems to really believe that the idea of separation of church and state is some radical liberal plot dreamed up by Bill Maher or something. Apparently, to the Tea Party, being Muslim or atheist is sufficient to make you unfit for office. Glenn Beck foams at the mouth at radical secular progressivism.

And all this is confusing since what are they so paranoid about? There is literally no impediment, social, civil or otherwise, to being Christian in America. But somehow a whole swath of people have been convinced, against all logic and despite clear evidence to the contrary, that the only way they'll get to continue being Christian is to deny everyone else the right to not adhere to Christian rules.

The end result of this is theocracy: government based on biblical law as interpreted by the most conservative practitioners of that faith. Which may sound familiar.

It's a profound sickness we have in this nation and we have the good folks at Fox to thank for it. Glenn Beck and his Fox cronies have made their Faustian bargains. They don't give a rat's ass about god. They don't care about church or have any interest in Jesus beyond how they can use him to fatten their bank accounts.

And you know? It's just gross.

Monday, October 25, 2010


A simple explanation of what racism is:

It is racist to blame an entire race for the actions of individual members of that race. It is racist to be afraid of people because of the way they worship god. It is really racist to decide you know what's in a person's heart because of the way they look. It is fantastically, extraordinarily racist to believe that people should not be allowed to hold elected office because they are Muslim.

It is racist to blame members of a race for your own prejudice against that race.

It is worse to be racist than it is to point out racism.

The only defense against racism is awareness of it.

I got preachy there. Things are getting ugly. Stop being racist.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Adventures in Slow Cooking from a Terrible Cook, Part 2

So, after the last post on slow cooking, my neighbor passed on his slow-cooker recipe (see comments at the last link for recipe) which I adapted based on what I had in the pantry and what I like. This is a curry recipe, which I used hot curry for and which made me sweat. But, I have to say, it was pretty good.

- 5 small potatoes, washed and cut into 1" chunks (the recipe called for peeled, but as a vegetarian I like to get my iron where I can and potato skins have loads of it)
- Most of a bag of frozen lima beans (I like lima beans. Shut up)
- 1 can vegetable broth
- 1 can rotel
- 2 Tbsp peanut butter (this was my own idea and the very first time I've gone off recipe this radically and it ended up good!)
- 2 Tsp hot curry powder
- 2 Tsp paprika
- 1 Tsp turmeric
- 1 Tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 Tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 Tsp ground mustard
- 1/2 Tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 Tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 Tsp allspice

Note - Every measuring spoon I have has been lost to the garbage disposal, so above were just estimates. This is how I roll and probably quite a key to why I'm such a terrible cook)

Throw all that in the crock pot on high for 5 hours or so.

Mix 2 Tblsp water with 4 tsp corn starch (estimated) and stir it into the crock pot for 30 minutes.

I made brown rice (since I didn't have any basmati) and threw it in there.

Score - Tasty. The peanut butter was a good idea. I think if I try again, I'll throw some raw cashews and a can of coconut milk in there and go full on Mussaman.

Thanks for the recipe, Michael!

Friday, October 22, 2010


I should warn you from the get go, sap is imminent. Lots of it.

I was going to blog tonight about this restaurant Leona's which I'm convinced is waging some incredibly complex and long-standing practical joke against me. No restaurant can be that consistently terrible and flourish. But something else happened and I decided I wanted to write about that.

Laney and I left Leona's at about 7:30, came home, brushed teeth, read stories got all snuggly and almost asleep when Laney said to me, "Can you go downstairs and get Fluffy." And then a cold feeling of dread descended over me. We left Fluffy at the restaurant. Fluffy was still in Leona's playroom.

Fluffy is the Build-A-Bear which is actually a dog that we got for Laney at the start of the school year. She loves this toy to distraction. Fluffy is her constant companion. She rides with us to school and waits in the car (because Laney feels that the car is safer for Fluffy than school) until it's time to go home. She sleeps with Laney every night. And we'd left Fluffy at the damn restaurant.

Tears sprang to Laney's eyes and I was just about to start my "You left your toy at the restaurant and now are going to have to deal with the consequences. I'll call and hopefully she'll still be there tomorrow but you need to take better care of your toys." But before a single word left my mouth, some primal feeling overtook me and instead I said, "Come on, let's go get her."

This is REALLY not like me. I was still working through the resentment that I'd given $40 to this terrible restaurant and I still have to make Laney's Halloween costume since she's got a party tomorrow. Besides, Laney would be asleep in 10 minutes even without Fluffy and then I'd be on Meg-time. And yet there was no question. We were going to get Fluffy.

As we were driving to the restaurant, I started to tell Laney about Peppy who was my favorite stuffed animal when I was about her age. I hadn't thought about Peppy in years. It was somewhere in the mid-70s, and I was visiting my cousin in Texas. My uncle had taken us to a carnival or state fair or something and had won or bought the doll for me. And I named her Peppy. And I loved her. Peppy was one of those cheap carnival prizes and was meant to look just enough not like Snoopy to avoid copyright infringement. I'd put blue eye shadow and pink blush on her and loved her to distraction. She looked like Snoopy if Snoopy were a particularly down-on-her-luck hooker. And she was my constant companion.

One year, I reckon I was about nine, we were on a trip to Florida and we stopped midway in a hotel. My friend, Beth, and I were sharing a room with my big brother and his friend, Joe. My parents were in the room adjacent. Nolan and Joe were playing wrestling with the dog and poor Peppy's head got ripped halfway off. In my eagerness to prove how grown up I was, I said "Oh, just throw her away."

Beth, always so much wiser than me, said "Are you sure?" I can conjure up her look of friendly, concerned admonition as if it were yesterday. But I had a little pre-pubescent crush on Joe and wanted to show him that I was NOT a baby.

About 10 miles on our way to Florida the next morning, I started to regret the decision. I crawled in the back of our Rambler and cried quietly. I felt so guilty and stupid. Beth understood. She was always such a good friend! "Poor Pepsi," she said (Beth called her Pepsi), and patted my head.

And now 30-odd years later, I had my chance to Make It Right. I told Laney all about my Peppy on the drive to the restaurant and when we got there (Leona's primary virtue is being close), there was Fluffy, sitting quietly in the playroom... waiting for us.

On the way home, Laney hugged her doll close to her and asked me if I would be happy if she could get Peppy for me. She's such a sweet kid and was so relieved to have her doll back and wanted me to feel like she did. I thought about it for a second and said "No, Peppy was for me as a little girl and I'm not a little girl anymore." And then she asked if I wished I could be a little girl again. And I said, "Well, you grow up and get to be all sorts of things. I got to be a nine and now I get to be 41, and get to have my own little girl and that's pretty great."

But (and I am honestly embarrassed to be this sappy), I think that little girl crying in the back of the Rambler is still with me and now, 30-odd years later, I feel OK about poor Peppy.

Laney is sound asleep now with her arms wrapped around Fluffy. And that's pretty great.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Freedom of Speech

First a tweet from Sarah Palin:

This is just an exhausting wingnut meme. They love the Constitution. They luuuuurrrve the Constitution. They are totally hot for the Constitution. They want to marry the Constitution and have like a million of its babies. But they can't be bothered to read the damn thing.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

You'll note that it doesn't say "There shall be no consequences for what you say provided your wingnut bona fides are in order." Juan Williams didn't get arrested. He got fired. Sheesh. If Eugene Robinson started spouting off on MSNBC about how all the tea party people were inbred rednecks whose parents are first cousins, you can damn well bet Sarah Palin would be leading the tweet charge for his dismissal from The Washington Post. And the Washington Post SHOULD fire him if he did that. But Eugene Robinson doesn't say racist shit on the TV and Sarah Palin agrees that it's the Muslims own stupid fault that Juan Williams is scared of them. And anyway the Constitution is totally hot for Sarah Palin and will say whatever she wants it to just like Todd and Sean Hannity. And this is how the entire Fox nation ends up believing the Juan Williams has been constitutionally abused instead of verbal diarrhea-ing his way into a 2 million dollar contract with Fox.

I think I have a pretty good handle on what the first amendment is all about. And I think it's pretty much at the heart of why we work as a country, even when the country seems filled with people saying profoundly stupid things (same as it ever was, but now with its own basic cable network!). We do have the first amendment to thank for those Westboro Baptist nitwits who spew their hate at the funerals of fallen soldiers. But we can also thank the first amendment for this, which (at the risk of going all grandiloquent) is everything that's great about America:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Adventures in Slow Cooking from a Terrible Cook

A while ago, I decided to bust out the crock pot. This blog is my inspiration and I consult it constantly even though I know that the best thing I make in it will be worse than the worst thing she does.

This is not false modesty. I am a terrible fucking cook. Seriously. I lack focus, patience, will and desire. I cling to the desperate hope that Laney will end up a prodigy and start spending her afternoons making wholesome delicious vegetarian meals for us to share.

This is, as we used to say in the south, not hardly likely. The kid will eat nothing but pasta and broccoli and would eat it them both raw if I weren't around to throw them in boiling water.

But I like to eat. And I try to eat healthy things. And we are broke like a joke. So about a while ago, I started Crock Pot Sundays.

This Sunday was my third or fourth venture on the slow cooker, and I think I'm getting a little better. I started with this recipe and then, since I didn't have the right ingredients and no inclination to go to the store, I just pretty much emptied stuff from my pantry into it. As follows:

1 can chickpeas
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 bigass can tomato puree (why did I have tomato puree? My pantry is very mysterious. I think cans of things just kind of appear in it)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Chili Powder
Fake Beef Crumbles
Can of Water

Tossed it in the crockpot, cooked it for about 6 hours and, you know what? not bad! It's pretty flavorful and definitely filling. I reckon a cup of it is about 150 calories and chock-a-block with fiber. And it's lunch for the week for about $6.

Thumbs up.

Crock pots make things taste good. They give the food a chance to really soak up the flavors. I think this one turned out well thanks to the turmeric, which is a lovely spice and should be in everything. Even Halloween candy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oh, New York... Carl Paladino? REALLY?

Carl Paladino, the GOP candidate for governor in New York, recently said:

"I don't want [children] to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option. It isn't." Gay people, he thinks, "would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family than being gay".

This reminded me of a dinner table conversation I had what must have been going on 20 years ago with my mother. My cousin, who'd come up with me and my brother in this area somewhere between sibling and cousin, had recently come out as a lesbian and my mother was upset about it. She didn't think my cousin was a sinner or a going to hell or anything really stupid like that. But she was worried that life would be so hard for her. She felt like she could have done more to protect her from this painful homosexual existence. It reminded me a lot of the same worries folks espoused about interracial relationships: "I'm not upset about their relationship, but how miserable the lives of their children!" I actually think this came from an honest place for a lot of people who just couldn't grasp that biracial kids weren't going to be living in perpetual 1955. Shoot, they might even end up doing pretty well. They didn't understand that these fears were more a propagation of a prejudice than a reaction to it. In their world, the blended children and the gays were shunned and mocked. And they had little faith that the world could ever be different.

But it was. My cousin now has a great job, a great life and, most importantly, a partner who is made of awesome, who loves her completely and who fits into our family like a hand into a glove. No one is surprised by this. If you are a wonderful and smart and kind person, it stands to reason that if all goes as it should with the universe, you end up with someone who deserves you.

My mother would be surprised if I reminded her of this ancient conversation. She loves my cousin and her partner and understands easily that gay people are no happier or unhappier in their relationships than straight people (which is to say: happy, unhappy, really depends on the time of day and if you've gotten enough sleep). Gay people just are. They exist. Being gay isn't a rebellion or a political stance. It's no more radical or exotic than being left-handed. If we want to go large and look at this in the grander cultural environment, it's clear that not only are gay lives happier with the liberty to live honestly, but life is easier and more peaceful for us straight folks who accept this simply.

It's surprising to me that in 2010 there are still people who think like Carl Paladino. Keeping up all that machismo must be exhausting; this miasma of denial like creating an imaginary kaleidoscope, and insisting to the rest of the world what you see through it is real-er than what's really real. All of us, surely, know gay people who are living rich, full, happy lives. Don't all of us, at least tangentially, know gay people who are enjoying successful relationships (should be marriage, but will be soon); gay people who are raising happy kids by following the simple algorithm that good parenting is achieved not by neglecting your own needs but by putting your kids' needs first? Isn't life just easier for all of us when we stop freaking out and creating drama where there just is none?

It really is. Trust me on this. If not, ask my Mom. She'd totally agree.

Also, Carl Paladino is a colossal asshole. Really, New York? Are you just trying to make us feel better about the whole Blagevich fiasco?

Friday, October 8, 2010


I got an eReader! I got the Sony one, which is the best one you can get when money is no object (money is no object because we don't have any and we got this one for free). I like it. It takes some getting used to, but I'm getting there. I like the idea of being able to have a whole bunch of books in one handy container that I can carry around in my purse. It's slim and light and my only problem with it is that you can't flip back through pages like you can a regular book. There's a way to. I just don't know what it is yet. But I will. My favorite thing about them is that I can read truly shlocky stuff in public and no one will know! I have a feeling I'll be checking out those Twilight books real soon.

Printed books won't go away. If you want to get a printed book, you'll be able to. But I suspect eBooks will be the norm within the next 10 years. After all, they're cheaper, more environmentally friendly and they're cheaper (did I mention cheaper?).

(While I'm talking about cheaper, they're not cheap enough yet. But they will be. They're like CDs. Publishers can get away with charging $10 for a novel now. But eventually, they'll have to admit that an electronic novel costs a fraction to publish what a printed one does. And the cost will reflect that. This may democratize casual reading in a way that libraries should but somehow don't.)

People will worry though about what this portends. Millions of words will be written on the subject (ironically, most of these will be read on computer screens). Old school types will pine and worry that the next generation is missing out on a fundamental feature of life because they aren't reading books the way older people like to read books.

Here's what I think: back in 1440 when Gutenberg invented the printing press a bunch of people at a dinner party sat around mourning its advent; agreeing with each other that if it's not handwritten, it's so impersonal.

Such is the hallmark of any new technology. Let's all roll our eyes at it. I bet Gutenberg did.

One final note: if I were to just hear the word "Gutenberg" completely out of context, I'd totally think Steve not Johannes. Would you? I suspect that if American culture is really in demise, this is the symptom. Not eReaders.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mrs. Catt

On August 18, 1920 the Tennessee state legislature met to vote on women's suffrage. 35 states had already ratified it and once it passed in Tennessee, it'd be a done deal. Carrie Chapman Catt, the head of the National Women's Suffrage Association, thought she had the votes. But when the vote ended at a 48-48 tie, the speaker, who was sympathetic to women's suffrage, voted no. Rat bastard. Can you believe it?

Fortunately, a 24 year old representative named Harry Burn, known as solidly anti-suffrage, had gotten a letter from his mother that morning. She'd written, "Be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt out." And so Harry Burn changed his vote. The bill passed and thus it came down to a note from Mom that women finally got the right to cast their vote.

I love this story. It's a delightful story. But the stone cold bummer of it is that by 1920, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were dead.

No good progressive act has ever happened in America without a long hard slog against an entrenched conservative power base that Does. Not. Want. Change.

But we fight the fight and remember that the fight is worth fighting even if you don't live to see victory. Because, in the end, progress will out. But not on its own.

The America we live in now is better than it has ever been before. We're a better country for women voting. We're better for our growing acceptance of the LGBT community. For god's sake, you'd think you wouldn't even have to say this out loud: but we're a better America than the one in which people could own other people.

American culture, for all its weird celebrity obsession and 24 hour news cycles, is more open and accepting than it has ever been before. And for that, we owe a debt of gratitude to the lion-hearted few who would not give up and to the Moms who knew when to write a timely note.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Whineypants Flea Post

There are fleas in our house. This is the most demoralizing, disgusting experience of my life and I am including the Bush years. I'm not saying I would trade a flea-free house for another few years of Bush, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'd think about it. I'd attend tea party rallies and keep my mouth shut to get rid of them. I'd watch Two and a Half Men for 24 straight hours to get rid of them. I'd give up wine to get rid of them. Bourbon. Cheese.

They're in my car, in my clothes. I've been on a continual loop of laundry for a week now. My bedding (all of it) has been washed no fewer than FIVE times in like eight days. We've vacuumed and steamed and washed washed washed. My commitment to a chemical free house has vanished. The dog is flea-free, but only because she's been doused in a flea and tick mist that she hates. My bedroom carpet is covered in Borax and my mattress is damp from the steamer. There's not a comfortable spot in the house, except Laney's room. Which SOMEHOW, small mercies, has stayed flea-free (I've probably jinxed it).

All the windows are open and I'm praying for a cold, cold night. Maybe that'll do it.

I feel dirty, despite having showered about 8 billion times over the last few days. Feeling dirty, coincidentally, also makes me feel fat. Which is just fucking great.

And the worst of it? It's my own fault! If I'd remembered to frontline the dog monthly as I was warned to, repeatedly, we wouldn't be dealing with this now.

So, look, the moral of this whineypants post: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (George, if you're reading this: THAT'S a platitude). But platitudes become platitudes because they're generally fucking true. Save for retirement. Don't drink or smoke too much. Eat healthy. Vote. And, for god's sake, put the damn frontline on the damn dog EVERY fucking month.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I had a few interesting Facebook experiences yesterday. First, I read a review of The Social Network in the paper that made me REALLY want to see it. Later on, in the office, a friend was telling me about the lunch conversation during his last training jaunt. He was the only one amidst the sandwiches and cans of soda in the conference room who used Facebook. The conversation went something like:

Them: I don't need to tell people I just had toast
Him: That's not really what it's about
Them: I don't want to hook up with old boyfriends
Him: That's not what it's about
Them: Oh yes it is.

And then, over my own lunch, I checked in with Stephen Colbert who was interviewing Aaron Sorkin, writer of The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin is not on Facebook. He tells us why: "Social networking is to socializing what reality television is to television." The audience responded with a bemused silence. He asked Colbert to clarify what the audience thought about his statement. Dutifully, they applauded.

I wish I could have been there to explain to him that they were silent because what he said made no fucking sense. There's not a person out there who confuses hanging out on Facebook with hanging out with real people. People who use Facebook understand that it is something new, not a replacement for established social conventions. No Saturday night barfly has ever said, "Huzzah! Facebook! I'm going to stop hitting the bars and never leave my house." People use Facebook as an easy way to invite people to birthday parties... not as a place to throw a birthday parties.

But this is familiar territory for the Sorkin. His weird loathing of reality TV paired with his blithe willingness to make all reality television into "Naked Conscience-Free Who Want to Marry a Millionaire and then Eat Bugs" was the weakest of many weak links of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It was clear that Aaron Sorkin didn't know what reality television was but felt free to comment on how terrible it was.

Sound familiar?

Here's my thing: I'm a mom whose husband works nights and have a job in which I spend most of my day sequestered in front of a computer screen. Facebook (and Twitter) is just an awesome way for me to connect with other people out there. People who say funny and sweet things. People who have parenting advice and can suggest movies to see. People I can complain about Newt Gingrich too. People I can gab about Project Runway with (I think Mondo has this thing locked up) and argue (still) over the finale of Lost (grrrrrrr). It's great fun and a great way to keep from feeling lonely when real life forces force you to be alone.

And if you've never used it, stop telling those of us who do what it's about. It's not what you think it is and you sound like one of those Luddite nerds from 2002 bitching about cell phones. A half a billion people across the world have decided this is a valid way to talk to each other. Get with the program or shut up about.