Monday, December 12, 2011

Community... I Get It

I love this show. Love it madly. And no one watches it. And it's on hiatus. And it might get canceled.* But you know I don't think this is a simple as a Americans like dumb TV. Stupid dumb Americans. That's a facile response and TV these days is just too good to bear that out.

But, I have a theory.

I've often noticed that my husband doesn't like this show the way I do. I mean, he thinks it's funny. And thanks to the miracle of the DVR, he probably hasn't missed an episode, but he has nowhere near the passion for it I do. After last year's Christmas episode (Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas) when I said to him that that might have become my favorite Christmas episode of anything ever**, he looked at me... well, he looked at me the way I look at him when he exhaustively explains to me, play by play, how the Bears game finished. You know, a befuddlement that is equal parts affectionate and annoyed.

And then I heard this story about how one of the actresses on the show put a black goatee over her Twitter picture and a bunch of her followers asked her what that meant, which I thought was weird. So, I asked Don, "Do you know what it means when a character on a comedy shows up with a sudden black goatee?

He didn't.

And that's Community. Community is a TV show for people who understand, on an almost molecular level, what the black goatee means***. If you don't, you'll still really like the show because it's first and foremost really funny, and yet also has that nice gooey core of a lovable, lovely heart. And, man, is it sharp. I mean, the writing is so clever and smart. But if you don't know what the black goatee means... you probably won't enjoy it to the level that nerds like me do.

If you are, however, a nerd like me, I bet you enjoy Big Bang Theory intermittently (although, probably mostly for Mayim Bialik). I also bet, though, that the runaway success of that show pisses you off. And, probably, don't even get you started on the vomitous pile of excrement that is the most popular American sitcom.

Stupid dumb Americans.

*I think it will come back. I think it was probably more a show for a cable channel than a network, but I think it's got enough of passionate fan base that they'll keep it around for syndication rights, which is, I think, four seasons.

**I'm going to watch last week's Christmas episode again. I'll see if, on second viewing, that can unseat Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas. Because it was pretty great too.

***Seriously, with the black goatee. I mean, I get not being well-versed on Trekology, but South Park riffed on it like a million years ago. How can people not know this?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bad Spelling and Poor Grammar

This title is slightly misleading. I don't love bad spelling and poor grammar. At least, not entirely. But something happened to me after a few years of Facebooking: namely every time I saw the word "its" or "it's", I assumed it was spelled wrong. I mean, I know the difference between "its" and "it's" pretty organically. But, every time I saw the word, my first instinct was to roll my eyes at the utter failure of the internet to police the it's/its divide properly. "Honestly," I'd think. "They'll let just anyone on the internet."

And six times out of ten? The word was spelled right. But I am very attached to the notion of my own spelling and grammatical superiority. And this is a shitty way to be.

Think of manners. In their right and proper form, good manners serve to make other people feel more comfortable. When people start to use them to underscore their own social superiority, they're doing it wrong, as demonstrated in countless rom-coms where our plucky heroine gets her man after the snooty bitch he's currently dating concocts some scenario with the purpose of outing the plucky heroine as some low-class tramp.*

Grammar, in its right and proper form, serves to clarify communication. When it becomes a tool for dividing one class of people from another, you're doing it wrong.

And English grammar? The rules there are way sillier than fingerbowls and understanding the proper designation for married vs. unmarried women. Like etiquette, much of good grammar relies on having been educated on antiquated mores.

This is not to say that I don't think there's a place for making sure you're crossing the it's/its divide properly. But that place is not Facebook. That place is not casual communication. From this point forward, I vow to no longer care whether you're using "less" when you should use "fewer"; I promise to no longer smugly groan when someone slips up on their/they're/there on a status update.

One day, we'll look at a lot of correct English spelling and grammar the same way we look at the words "thee" and "thou." As current grammar mores become anachronistic, our method of communication will become more democratic. And I think that's good. Don't u?

* Oddly, the ne plus ultra of RomComs (Bridget Jones Diary) did not feature a scene where the snooty bitch tries to show up Bridget via proper etiquette. Instead, there's this skinny naked American lady who sneers, "You said she was thin," which remains the single most random moment I've ever seen in a movie. I mean, I get how the skinny naked bitch might make you feel... but she'd never say that. That was just weird.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Sexual Harassment Primer (It's Really Not that Complicated)

Let me start by phrasing it in geek:

Sexual harassment != Telling a dirty joke
Sexual harassment != Complimenting a colleague
Sexual harassment != Flirting

Any of these things can = generally unprofessional behavior. But, to each workplace its own. And what's unprofessional behavior in one office, might well be the status quo in another.

Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is just one of the many established, crystal-clear, and obvious-to-everyone-involved-in-it-no-matter-how-much-they-pretend-its-not forms of bullying that take places every day (but less so, on a positive note, much less so) in America.

Sexual harassment is something you do *at* someone, not *with* someone. If the person on the other end is not enjoying it, is uncomfortable with it and, especially, if their discomfort is the reason you're doing it, that's sexual harassment. Is the reason you're hurling the comments and behavior around because you want to underscore which side of the power dynamic you stand on? That's sexual harassment.

To wit, during the halcyon days when I was a newbie cocktail waitress at the bar, I remember being on the wrong end of sexual comments and behavior that made me really uncomfortable a lot. And the reason the fellows in question enjoyed hurling the comments and behavior my way was because they thought it was hilarious that it made me uncomfortable. If it didn't bother me, they wouldn't do it. Thus, to the Herman Cain defenders of the world, it was my fault they did it because if it didn't bother me, they wouldn't do it. Which is kind of like saying it was my fault I got the broken rib because if I'd been wearing suitable body armor they wouldn't have felt like punching me. Does that seem hyperbolic? Is a little hyperbole really worse than entrenched, cultural victim-blaming (hint: it's not).

How about another example: if you're out with your buddies and you compliment the waitress on her nice ass, you're not doing it to pay her a compliment. You're doing it because it makes you feel like a bug guy in front of your friends at the expense of the waitress.

And, you know that's why you're doing it. You know what sexual harassment is. Stop acting so dumb. I know that decades of lazy sitcom stereotypes and beer commercials have tried topawn off the notion that men only act like assholes because they're too dimwitted to know how to behave like civilized people, but, come on, you're not. You know you're not. You know what sexual harassment is. Grow up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It always surprises me when people don't understand why they shouldn't use the expression "illegals." It reminds me of arguments I used to have with my grandmother when she'd talk about "that colored fella." I start off gobsmacked and then recognize that I'm only being asked to explain the offense because the other party is defensive and looking to project their guilt the other way (which is pretty much the ne plus ultra when it comes to right-wing propaganda).

That said, I'm happy to explain. It's why I blog!

The phrase "illegals" is designed to evoke a certain people. It is not meant to describe anyone walking around in a state of illegal activity. We didn't refer to Jack Abramoff or Ken Lay as "illegals," despite the deep, damaging quagmire of illegality they subjected the whole fucking country to. Nor do we refer to people who fail to pay taxes as "illegals," (mostly, we call them 'Republican Donors'). Shoot, I bet when you heard Rick Perry and Mitt Romney trying to out "illegal" each other, no one even pictured that cute Australian guy you used to know with the expired student visa.

No, the phrase "illegals" is meant to evoke a very particular kind of person. I'm actually surprised that Herman Cain didn't bust out a phrase like "Senor Illegal," since his since of humor is just that sophisticated.

The phrase "illegal" is artful and does exactly what it's meant to do: strip the humanity away from the person it's ascribed to so that we* can feel OK about sending them back to Mexico, away from their homes. This way, we can ignore the fact that deportation rips husbands away from their wives, and mothers away from their children. It's not a real person who's lived here for twenty years, it's not a part of a community. It's not some American teenager's Mom. It's an "illegal," not an actual person that we are sending back to a kind of poverty that we don't understand in this country (yet...).

And, while we're at it with these goddamn illegals (who are also called "parasites" because the most important thing is that this is not a person), let's talk about those anchor babies who've lived here for 17 and a half of their 18 years. You know, there was a plan to let them join the military for a couple of years in exchange for legal status. Well, fuck those guys! No matter how much service you give to our country, you're still an illegal parasite. Go back to that place I'll call your home even though you've never fucking lived there.

And, as a special added bonus, we can hurl about the invective "illegals" as an easy peasy way for the rest of us to feel smug about our own legal status. After all, our ancestors followed the proper channels to get here! It doesn't matter that what constituted a "proper channel" back in the old days was to jump on a boat and get herded through Ellis Island, after which you could look forward to spending a great deal of time getting shit on by the nativist, xenophobic assholes who'd been here longer. Nativist, xenophobic bullshit is our birthright, motherfucker! My grandfather didn't stare down a "No Irish Need Apply" sign just so some illegal Mexican could wash dishes at the Denny's.

I got ranty. Sorry. This phrase "illegals" makes me very angry. But let me try to appeal to the better angels of the nativist, xenophobic right-wingers out there: you know who you sound like when you get all snobby and paranoid about the extant culture of the country? You sound like the fucking French is who you sound like. Enjoy your freedom fries.

*I say "we" here purposefully. As a supporter of the president, I count too on the wrong side of this rant. Obama's record on deportation is shameful. And cruel. And stupid. He broke up all those families and sent all those people away from their homes so he could look tough on immigration to a bunch of nitwits who don't even believe he's a real American. I hope he gets better on this in his second term.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Teach Your Children (all of them.. both genders) Well

I was watching TV as I put together some packets for my Girl Scout meeting tomorrow (I still find it so surprising that I run a Girl Scout troop) when the innocuous sit com I was watching faded into the execrable Two and a Half Men. As has been stated on many occasions, I am an optimistic woman by nature, but the fact that that show is so overwhelmingly popular makes me almost as nervous for the future of humanity as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch does. That's not true... nothing scares me as much as that garbage patch and that's the truth, so let's focus on somewhat less terrifying piles of garbage.

The cold open joke was one about how men have the money and women reciprocate for money with sex because hahahahaha. I turned the TV off.

As a girl and as young woman, I totally accepted as gospel that boys want sex more so girls are responsible for saying no to the boys who are too overwhelmed by lust to be trusted to have good judgement. Girls are taught that... not necessarily by their parents, but by American culture at large. It's endemic. Or it was.

Fortunately, feminism has made great strides and there are lots of good feminists out there (male and female) raising good feminist kids.

So here's what you tell your kids (full disclosure: I read this on Jezebel and it struck me like a bolt out of the blue how simple it is... but I couldn't find the link because I didn't look very hard): no one should feel coerced into sex. Period. That's it in a nutshell. No one should have sex because they feel like they ought to. No one should feel like sex is something they're doing for someone else. No, please, baby, please, Imgonnadieifyoudon't. No, justforasecondbabyplease. No, ifyoulovedmeyouwould. All of that is coercive and it is rapey as hell.

To be very serious here, protecting your children against the rape culture (it's a real fucking thing, get over your defensiveness about it) does not mean teaching your daughters how to avoid rape; it does not mean lecturing your daughters about how they need to be careful about how they dress and where they go. It means educating your children (both genders) about the toxicity of coercion, in all its forms. It's about putting the responsibility for rape onto rapists - not victims of rape.

And, as a special bonus, you can tell your nephews or little brothers (honestly, this is not something anyone really wants to hear from Mom or Dad) that the great grand secret of the no-coercion rule is that they will not only get laid more, they will have much better (and more) sex. Because that old cliche about sex and pizza? Not true: there is bad sex and there is bad pizza.

So, remember this: our goal for our children's sexual education should not be to teach boys to respect and girls to protect female virtue; it should be to teach all our kids to respect the autonomy of their partners and their right to make their own decisions.

Sex isn't something girls give to boys, it's something girls and boys (and boys and boys and girls and girls) do with each other.

That is all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Hero!

Good googly moogly, you guys! Have I really not blogged for THIS long? I blame Laney - she's been going to bed later these days and by the time she finally hits the hay, I'm usually about done for. Plus Dr. Who is streaming on Netflix, and I just got to the David Tennant seasons. I love him.

But I've started many blogposts in my head during my long days, and through the various hazes of my various fatigues. But I wanted to write tonight to talk about my heroes.

It's long been my Middlemarch inspired philosophy that it's the small the simple expressions of humanity that make for real heroes. Like my neighbor, Jonathan, who came into my house in order to dispose of a tiny, almost dead baby mouse. Because not only did he dispose of the wee thing for me, he also went well out of his way to make me not feel stupid for being afraid of dealing with it myself. And then he had the kindness to express some regret for the death of this tiny thing. Little things like that count for a lot, I think. I am lucky to have such nice neighbors. And I will always believe that people who will just be kind when they don't have to are the real heroes of this world.

But sometimes the big gestures count too. And I cannot help but be overwhelmed by those people who've camped out overnight for a month and led marches and made their voices heard and who are, I really think, forcing us away from what I'd thought was a depressingly inexorable drift to the meannest right-wing ethos of America, to an eventual complete capitulation to the fucking plutocrats. These people have stood up, sacrificed convenience and ease, to say, "This isn't fair, this isn't the American dream, and I think the American Dream is something worth fighting for."

Because, you know, it seemed like for about ten years now, we lefties had sat back, wryly commenting on how incredibly fucked up the country had gotten. And, I enjoy a little wry commentary. But it doesn't really do anything except remind you that you're smarter than the poor saps who were willingly embracing it.

So, Christ on a cracker, I am fucking THRILLED to see the left move away from sarcasm and wryness and on into almost embarrassing earnestness. When I saw an amazing, idealistic, passionate crowd unabashedly singing along to This Land Is Our Land (god, I love that song) with Tom Morello, I got a little weepy and thought, well, the sarcastic, ineffective, smug worm has finally turned.

So, here's my cry to the heavens: the American Dream isn't that anyone can be president, anyone can be a millionaire. That's a stupid misinterpretation. The American Dream is that anyone can make it here. You don't have to be born into wealth to have a nice life. We are all supposed to be able to do better than just get by. The American Dream is that you can work, have a home, and go to a doctor when you're sick. The American Dream is that you can raise a family, which means getting to spend some time with that family too. The middle-class IS the American Dream. And those hippies in Zucccotti Park, that's what they're fighting for.

And I, goddammit, I salute them. Their earnestness is worth more than all the sarcastic commentary in the world.

(but let's keep the sarcastic commentary coming to... I mean, I like that too).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Which I Quote Wholesale from Douglas Adams

I read this paragraph tonight and just really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd pass it onto you all:

"He had discovered that the reason for the carnival atmosphere on Saquo-Pilia Hensha was that the local people were celebrating the annual feast of the Assumption of St. Antwelm. St. Antwelm had been, during his lifetime, a great and popular king who had made a great and popular assumption. What King Antwelm had assumed was that what everybody wanted, all other things being equal, was to be happy and enjoy themselves and have the best possible time together. On his death, he had willed his entire personal fortune to financing an annual festival to remind everyone of this, with lots of good food and dancing and very silly games like Hunt the Wocket. His Assumption had been such a brilliantly good one that he was made into a saint for it. Not only that, but all the people who had previously been made saints for doing things like being stoned to death in a thoroughly miserable way or living upside down in barrels of dung were instantly demoted and were now thought to be rather embarrassing."

From "Mostly Harmless," by the late, lamented, wonderful and hilarious Douglas Adams. Everyone got their towels?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some Pig, Indeed

This morning I was driving Laney to her tennis lesson and from the back seat, apropos of nothing, she says to me "The doctor in the book said it was the web that was the miracle not the words."

As those of you with chillun know, parenting is all highs and lows, valleys and troughs, one coming hard after the next. Count this one as a high. Big time*.

Last night was a Saturday night in the heart of the summer. After I read a chapter of "Otherwise Known as Shelia the Great" to Laney she grabbed a book from her bookshelf to read for a while before falling asleep. She chose "Charlotte's Web." I then wandered downstairs, poured myself a bourbon and sat down at the piano where, over a period of two or three hours, I'm pretty sure I came close to reanimating the corpse of George Gershwin so he could head into my living room, slam the piano lid down and say, "Look. Just... no. Stop."

I was deeply invested in playing Gerswhin terribly and it was a Saturday night in the middle of summer, so I was content to let Laney read for as long as she wanted. Turns out, she read the whole book.

We'd read it together before. The last time it was a purely collaborative experience because I was crying so hard by the end that Laney exhorted me, "Get it together, Mom!" and then took over the reading of it.

But then, last night, reading on her own she came across a passage that articulates the poetically rational philosophy that I've tried to impart to her for her whole life. The supernatural makes for great stories, but it's not real. Nature, however, is pretty fucking amazing. There are miracles all around you. Things grow and are beautiful and people are kind to one another and food tastes so good. So, rather than setting up worship of water turning into wine, enjoy water and, one day, enjoy wine. Appreciate the great art of nature.

Sigh. As usual, I'm not saying it well. That Chuck Darwin could turn a phrase:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Or, the miracle is not the words, it's the web.

* Ain't I lucky to have such a smart, book-loving kid? She's also great in that she keeps me from getting all cocky about it. For example, as I write this, Laney is sitting on the other end of the couch, legs in the air in that way that only kids and yoga masters are comfortable in, reading a book. She looked up from and said, "Do you mind? I just farted at you." I kinda did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Look, Just Don't Do that

Today after I parked my car, I read my email on my phone in the garage elevator. Terrible habit! I really need to stop that. One of the mails I read practically guaranteed a shit morning, navigating the murky waters of someone else's IT department. I hate dealing with other people's IT departments. So much. Don't you? Do you ever have to? It's the worst!

So, I left the garage kind of of lost in thought, trying to think of a good way to handle the situation. I crossed the street and headed into the CVS to buy my morning Diet Coke.

As I was about to walk through the door, a guy on a bicycle zoomed up right next to me, super close, and said, "Good morning," real chirpy right into my face. I was startled, under-caffeinated, and still mostly thinking about how to respond to the customer and so I didn't return his aggressive "good morning" in a timely enough manner. He wheeled away and said, real shitty-like, "I guess it's not then!"

God, that annoys me. And, you know what, it annoys every woman I know. It's more common corollary is the guy who demands of some girl he doesn't know that she smile. If he's older and southern, he'll probably also tell you that you're prettier when you smile. I hate that. Because the thing is, it's not flirting, it's not charming. It's aggressive and demanding. It's not a double-x chromosomal imperative to smile and be cheerful and make the world a pleasant place. Sometimes, we've got shit on our minds.

So a PSA, fellows, don't order strange women to smile. Don't get all up in their faces and demand pleasantries. It's onerous and obnoxious. Imagine how you'd feel if some strange guy felt welcome to complain about your insufficient cheer.

You'd hate that. So don't do it. Just, dont.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I tend to reflexively shut down when people start getting all dewy-eyed and nostalgic. I distrust and dislike nostalgia. It really bugs me when people talk about the "good old days" without acknowledging that those days weren't so good for a good chunk of people. The past is complicated. And we as a people actually keep getting better, not worse. Mayberry makes for a nice rhetorical turn, until you remember that the real Mayberry was most likely a place where Jim Crow laws were the rule of the land. But, hey, people were more polite or something!

At another level, I think people rarely recognize that the happy times of the past might have been so happy because they were children when they experienced them. Good parents make the world their kids live in a safe and wholesome place. But that doesn't mean that the grown up people around them weren't sweating the bills and the changing cultural norms. I'm freaked out almost all the time, but I'm hoping Laney looks back at these parlous times as comforting and safe.

That said, lately, there seems to be so much hysterical concern about demographic winters - fear that America is in danger because there aren't enough white babies being born. And I can't help but remember the halcyon days of my own youth when we talked about melting pots and how Freddie Prinze was as much an American as the old white dude he worked for (ask your parents). It seemed like when I was growing up, the idea that Being American=Being White was being challenged and well on its way out the door.

And I miss that. I despair when Pat Buchanon shows up on the purportedly "liberal" MSNBC and waxes paranoid about the looming threat of more brown babies being born than white babies.

So, I confess, I'm nostalgic for the 70s. I miss the melting pot. I mourn the notion of American diversity as the greatest American strength. I hate seeing the notion that the only real American is a white American getting any kind of traction. It's so toxic and retrograde.

And that's all the nostalgia you'll get from me.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Tears, Idle Tears

We raced home after Laney's birthday party to catch the end of the Women's World Cup and, oh, it was a heartbreaker, wasn't it? I mean, since I'm not generally invested in women's soccer, it wasn't too much of a stretch for me to feel happy for Japan because there's a country that could use some spirit lifting. And no matter how you feel about sports, moments like these do lift the spirits of a nation.

And how awesome was it to see all these men so invested in women's sports? At the bowling alley (where we held the birthday party), I commented about all these men so riveted by those women playing soccer and this guy turned and said to me, "This is great!"

U.S.A. lost. But I still found some stuff to cheer for.

Still, my heart broke for those players. Imagine being THAT close and falling short so close to the end? Crushing. Devastating. I know it's only a game, but, damn, they worked so HARD, didn't they?

I watched the postgame interview with Abby Wambach answering those ridiculous questions, and she answered them with so much grace and aplomb and spine. She kept her upper lip stiff, answered the questions, and walked off the field with her head high.

Me? I break into tears during the cuts episodes of So You Think You Can Dance.

I would love to be as self-possessed and graceful as that Abby Wambach, who can actually answer questions like "Did you mean to not win?" (which is about the level of questions they ask) without crying or rolling her eyes or punching the reporter in the neck.

I wonder if you can learn that? Because, honestly, the older I get the more prone I am to irritating displays of emotion.

Maybe I should take up soccer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Problem with Reversing the Ism

A quick list of things I don't believe in: ghosts, rational libertarianism, that the Cubs will ever win a World Series, and reverse racism/sexism. Let's talk about that last one.

Racism and sexism aren't a series of individual acts. They are systemic problems in American culture. In other words, racism isn't something that happens to a black person. It's the experience of Black People (and Muslims and Latinos) Sexism isn't something that happens to a woman. It's the experience of Women.

So, while an individual black person might act like an asshole to an individual white person because that individual black person doesn't like white people, white people in America are not victims of racism. And while a woman might be an asshole to a man because she doesn't like men, men in America are not victims of sexism.

When you start using those words to label isolated experiences, you cheapen them.

We don't live in a bias-free America. There are a different set of rules for women than for men and there are a different set of rule for races other than Caucasian. It's not cool for people who have no experience living under these differing sets of rules to appropriate those fights.

There are times when I'd love to get a giant megaphone and just announce loudly to the world, "STOP ACTING LIKE ASSHOLES AND START BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER." And while that is certainly a valid wish and one, I'm sure, we all share. We can't get there by just being nice to each other. We have to start with genuinely trying to recognize and remedy systemic unfairness. And the quickest #epicfail on the road to recognition is appropriation.

In short: Shut it, Fox News: there's no war on Christians. No one's gunning for whitey. And feminists don't hate men. Be aware of your privilege.

(Also stop acting like assholes and be nice to people)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Something Else I Wanted to Say

I go a couple of weeks without blogging and then I get two BAM BAM. But I was thinking this evening that I'm starting to understand why people go ultra-conservative and fall in political love with the likes of Michelle Bachmann.

Being a member of the reality-based community is really scary, you guys. The things that make your average liberal struggle to fall asleep at night (climate change, pending economic catastrophes, pending economic catastrophes that could make the current president so unpopular that Michelle Bachmann actually BECOMES president, shit like that), are all plausible and genuinely terrifying.

But if you're one of those conservatives who love Michelle Bachmann you're terrified of things like creeping Shari'a law and gay marriage; where the latter is fundamentally unscary, and the former is just an incredibly stupid fucking thing to be afraid of.

I get it. I think I'm going to start focusing my fear on creeping Shari'a law and gay marriage. It's way better than being afraid of pending economic catastrophe. Anyone want to join me? Look! Over there! A couple of gay guys are holding hands! AUGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

I'm going to sleep so much better.

The Value of Work

It's been a spell since I checked in here at this old blog. Miss me? What? You didn't notice I was gone? God, you guys are total assholes! I could have been DEAD IN A DITCH... Oh, you saw me on Facebook. Never mind.

I'm a busy lady, as are you all (except, of course, those of you who are gentle fellows). What with my job and my kid and my panicky freakouts about the economy and how that will impact my job and how that would impact my kid, I barely have time to have my nightly bourbon. I make time for that, but some nights it's after 10:00 when time is made.

So, you know I wrote this book, right? Took me a couple of years of scrabbling together 30 minutes here and an hour there, but I wrote the fucker and then rewrote it and then decided to put it out there. I got a couple of bites from literary agents but nothing panned out.

And after listening hard to the polite opinions of people who'd read it, and trying to dredge out what what they were avoiding to spare my feelings, I decided I needed to go back in. And so, as a particular exercise, I made myself sit down and read the thing, cover to cover, without taking notes, without making edits, without losing myself in this scene or that line of dialog. And what did I did I discover? This motherfucker needs WORK, you guys. And I mean that as literally as I can.

No one will ever tell you writing is easy, unless you're Bristol Palin or Octomom or someone else with a ghost writer... But the ghost writer would tell you that writing is hard. And the reason that it's hard is because it's not just finding the right words or really knowing your character. It's hard because you have to be willing to go back into it, again and again, and fix the things that are wrong. You have to do the work. You have to do the part that doesn't feel creative and doesn't come easily. You have to do the work.

Such is the lesson for life. There's always work to be done. But everything that is worth doing, is worth doing well. Cliche, sure. But things don't generally achieve cliche status without being true.

So, I'll meet you back here around Christmas and will hopefully have fixed the many, many things that are wrong with my beloved book. The plot points that come off as contrived, the character that drops out and then reappears in a manner that makes the reader (shit, made the WRITER) go "wait... who's that again?", the points when my voice completely drops away. A million things that are just a little bit wrong with it.

I'm doing the fucking work.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Feel Fat

I write this as I'm watching New York make gay marriage legal. So, first a note on that: you're so gay, New York. So wonderfully, awesomely gay. It brings a smile to my heart to see us one step closer to the future I imagine for my daughter where sexual orientation is no impediment to status as a full and free American. Good on you, New York. People in the chambers are chanting "USA USA!" It's awesome.

I still hate the fucking Yankees.

But I wanted to blog on something else.

I feel fat all the time. Whenever I feel any moment of insecurity (professional, creative, social), I feel certain that I would NOT feel this way if I weighed 20 or 3o pounds less. I find myself often wishing that I could muster up enough self-loathing to just go fucking hungry. To just stop eating. I could pretend that what I'd really like is to eat healthy foods and exercise. But I am a pretty healthy eater and I do exercise. What I really want is to find my way to hating the way I look enough to stop eating. To be hungry. Virtuously, blithely, skinnily hungry.

That is fucked up. And it's a level of fucked up that I think a whole lot of women share.

But, there is one area where I think I'm doing right. I made a vow about four years ago to never, ever, never, ever, never, ever nevernevernevernever say "I feel fat" in front of Laney. To NEVER stare obsessively at my body and make gross out statements about my belly or thighs. As godtupus is my witness, I will do whatever I can to not pass on the self-loathing, body obsessed bullshit that so many American women mistake humility for.

I don't kid myself that I can keep Laney safe from the body-hating thing that American women do. It's rife in the culture. But it starts with me. And I'm not rearing the kid in the cult of self-loathing that seems to be de rigeur for women. Am. Not.

And, here's what I'm saying to you: if you're raising girls, join me. Don't hate yourself in front of your kid. Don't disparage your body or bemoan flaws. Eat. Enjoy your food. Celebrate your strength.

And stop thinking that being ashamed of your body is a virtue. Because we pass that onto our girls. And don't we want our girls growing up to love their bodies?

I do.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

About that Memphis Racist

My Facebook status from a few days ago:

Standing on a rooftop watching the Cubs. Meet a fellow from Memphis. Within four sentences he says something racist. Every time. Ugh.

My cousin, Sammy, was right. I did paint too broad a stroke. But it's Facebook. That happens. The commonality was not that all white people from Memphis are racist - the commonality was that both he and I were white and from Memphis. So this dude figured I was part of his tribe and was perfectly comfortable airing his racist bullshit.

The other thing: as soon as this guy opened his mouth, I knew it was imminent. I knew when he wanted to talk about Memphis it wouldn't take long before he would complain about how all Memphis' problems are down to too many "blacks." He telegraphed it the second he found out I was from there too. I've met the exact same guy a few dozen times in my life.

And I'm sure that white people from Detroit, for example, or the south side or any place in America where black people and white people live side by side in an area of some economic distress, have had the exact same experience.

I think it's all really weird. But I'm afraid to tell people I don't like those Housewife shows for fear of offending them. So I really don't get someone just feeling completely at home airing their racist bullshit. They must live in the smallest worlds!

My friend, Susan, tells me she likes to know off the bat if someone is a racist ignoramous or not. And while I can see the benefit of that - if it's just some casual small talk conversation with a person I will never see again, can't they just do me the simple courtesy of putting a fucking cork in their own bullshit? Is that really too much to ask?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Great Battle of BoA 2011

In a nutshell: I expected a mortgage payment to come out that didn't. I called BoA and a representative named William told me that it wasn't coming and if I didn't make that payment then I would most likely be beset with a plague of frogs or murdered in my sleep or something. So I made the payment with him.

Two mortgage payments came out the next day and thus began the great BoA Battle of 2011.

Let me explain. No, there's not enough time. Let me summarize. BoA would not return the second payment until they were absolutely sure that my bank would not return the funds since the second mortgage payment put us into overdraft. A copy of a statement showing clearly that the funds had posted and cleared was not adequate. After three days of conversation with various BoA representatives, it became clear that they were not going to give that money back until I managed to dredge up the corpse of John Pierpont Morgan himself, reanimate his long dead flesh and recorded a youtube of him in which he assured BoA that he done spent that money already and couldn't give it back.

Old dead JP's bank, it's worth mentioning, did me a solid and returned the money pretty quick once I got a hold of someone there.

That positive experience notwithstanding, the whole thing was scary and frustrating. At some point in my various conversations with Melody and Elizabeth at BoA, it became crystal clear that I was completely powerless in this situation. BoA has processes, by gum, and these processes are designed to make sure that BoA keeps as much of your money as possible. And more, these processes are set up so that it is impossible to do anything but rigorously adhere to them. To wit: I could talk to someone in the claims department. But I couldn't talk to someone in the return-the-money department. No one could. The person who'd actually do the wire transfer cannot be spoken to because there's a chance that some odious weakness like compassion might rear up thus separating BoA from some of my money.

A few people have sent me this story about a couple who was foreclosed upon by BoA despite having paid cash for their home. On the funny tip, some awesome judge and lawyer got together and allowed the couple to foreclose on BoA. On the less funny tip, BoA initiated foreclosure proceeding on a home they didn't hold a mortgage on. In a sensible world, the only thing you'd call that is attempted theft. Of someone's fucking HOUSE!

These banks are too big. And we are completely powerless against them. It'd be nice if some intrepid young congressman would start doing something about it, but they're too busy calling Elizabeth Warren a socialist.

Monday, June 6, 2011


That was disappointing, wasn't it? Anthony Weiner was my favorite! I loved his fight and his politics. I loved how smart and funny and cool he came off. But sending unsolicited pictures of his cock to random women? That's just so creepy!

And so STUPID! Tweeting pictures of his junk to a woman he'd never met? Was he drunk? He must have been drunk.

That said, why would anyone send an unsolicited picture of their cock to a woman? Is it possible to get drunk enough to think that's a good idea? I ask you, be-penised Americans, does there come a time when you glance down and think, "Hey! Here's my penis! Isn't it pretty? I'd quick better share its magnificence, photographically, with a woman."

Because if you do, I think it's behest upon me to inform you that women are far less impressed with your junk than you are. Frankly, and I think I speak for the sisterhood-at-large, taken out of context, penises are kind of ridiculous. I think it was Elaine Benes who wisely said, "I don't know how you walk around with those things."

Context is everything. And just to be perfectly clear, Twitter is not the right context. Nor is texting. Seriously: put it away and wait for an appropriate moment.

And the right moment will NEVER arise over Twitter.

Oh, Anthony Weiner. Sigh.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Coming out of Retirement - Plus a Post on the Moral Case for Atheism

I retired this blog peremptorily. It was a mistake. I'm going to keep my baby steps blog and use it for writing posts, but I think I need a brain dump one. Especially when there's something I've been noodling on for a few days. Like my own atheism.

Atheist is a loaded, scary word isn't it? I confess that when I hear it, I still feel threatened. For a girl raised in a good, Catholic home like mine, "atheist" still feels a little like something hanging out under your bed, ready to getcha as soon as you let your guard down.

But I'm an atheist. And I've been noodling for a while on the moral case for it. Because morality is the reason why I finally gave up cowardly agnoticism and embraced (as Dan Savage calls it) principled atheism.

Here's the skinny: I didn't reject God (although god makes less and less sense to me as I go on). I rejected moral absolutism. I embraced getting along with other people. If God's out there telling you the right thing to do, there's always the chance that the right thing to do becomes the thing God says is the right thing to do. Stop. Period. I'm not a bigot: God says it's a sin to be gay. I don't hate women: God's the one who says she's a whore.

There are, of course, a whole honking lot of people who interpret the will of God thoughtfully and with an eye to getting along with the rest of us earth-walkers. I'd wager a healthy majority of the church going people of the world are tolerant, respectful people. But I'm not talking about religion. I'm talking about God.

The very notion of Divinity means that there is an absolute right, and absolute right leads to absolute authority. I'm a godless democrat and a wannabe socialist. I want to live in a world where the will of the majority and the rights of the minority are privileged equally and above all. There's no room for absolute authority there.

My philosophy in a nutshell: If you let go of God, all you're left with is people. And that's the point when people, including people outside your tribe, start to matter more.

I wish that John Lennon song hadn't gotten somehow to be so hokey. Because it's a radical notion. Imagine (ugh...still hokey... I wish I knew who to blame for that. Is it OK if I blame Sharon Stone?)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blog Retirement

I'm retiring this here blog. You've been a swell 7 readers. Please join me over at the new spot.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The problem with democrats is....

I went out to dinner on my birthday with some good friends to my favorite restaurant. As we scooped up various delicious comestibles with oddly spongy read the talk turned, as it will, to politics.

Midway through the conversation, a couple of the people I was dining with were explaining to me why Barack Obama was sure to lose the 2012 election.

We live in an America where the G.O.P led House just passed a budget killing Medicare. We live in an America where the Republican senator from New York held actual hearings because of his racist perception of some nebulous threat of Islam in America. Speaking of Islam, Republicans from Oklahoma recently passed a law banning Shari'a law because Oklahoma was thisclose to electing an Imam as governor and mandating burquas. We live in an America where women's reproductive freedom is under attack. We live in an America where Republican fiscal responsibility means taking money away from poor and middle-class people and giving it over to corporations.

And all my progressive friends ever want to talk about is why Barack Obama, who has had the most legislatively successful first two years in modern presidential history, who has advanced a genuinely progressive agenda, is such a disappointment.

I'm willing to throw some good money down that Barack Obama not only wins in 2012, but wins easily. The only legitimate candidate that the GOP can seem to find is Mitt Romney and he seems shockingly willing to run against his own record in order to pander to the loud and reactionary Tea Party wing of this party.

But, in the meantime, it would be nice if we on the left could invest some real energy exposing the madness of the modern GOP - their rank and file commitment to racist and sexist politicking while reaching their hands into the back pocket of every American who isn't G.E. or Viacom instead of whining about how disappointed we are in the president who actually PASSED healthcare reform and is willing to use the word "abortion" as something women have a right to.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Laney Gets Her History a Little Confused... But, Unlike Glenn Beck She Accepts Corrections

In the car on the way home after dinner, out of the clear blue sky, Laney says... no, she pronounces as though she's speechifying in front of a classroom:

Martin Luther King, back in slave times, told black people to stop riding the bus.

Don't worry - I clarified and explained where she'd gotten her facts a little mixed up. We talked about how Martin Luther King didn't live in slave times and what Jim Crow laws were and how deeply messed up the rules were back then. It was, as the Prez would say, a teachable moment.

Still, I thought the way she strung those words together was kind of hilarious.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Statues and Marriage

I love statues. I wish we still lived in a world where people built statues of great leaders. The problem is that we seem to have lost our ability to see leadership since we can't look without the lens of politics. But that's depressing and not really what I wanted to write about.

This here is a statue I love. I pass it every morning, and Laney and I say "Good morning, General Grant."

One morning recently, Don was driving in with us. And it was winter and snowy and when we passed (and greeted) General Grant, I remarked to Don how lonely and sad I thought he looked up there. I told him that I thought that statues of great men like that underscore how lonely it must have been to be General Grant.

Don replied that he didn't see anything sad at all; that, instead, he thought it looked like General Grant was up there protecting us and looking out for us. He finds statues like that really comforting.

You know, I think that might sum up a lot about how we work as a married couple. We have a lot in common. We agree a lot about how we want to raise our daughter. We have remarkably similar political proclivities (y'all, if anything, Don is even more liberal than me... I swear). We like baseball but not as much as we used to. And we both find ourselves re-developing a passion for the Bulls. But we often see the world in strikingly different ways.

I think this works well for us, because we each help the other one to see the world in a slightly different way. It keeps us on our toes. And, you know, one of our vows was to stay interested in each other. It helps that we see things differently.

Other times, though, it's annoying. Like when we get into bed at night and decide we want to watch TV. Don likes to put horrifying war documentaries from the military channel on because he finds the boring voices of the people talking about whatever atrocity is being discussed soothing. I, on other hand, prefer mindless TV shows about vampires or forensic anthropologists. It all comes down to tone vs. content for late night TV for us.

We should probably just read books before bed instead.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I just watched a clip on Rachel Maddow where the new Ohio governor (a Fox News Tea Party darling) kept referring to a trooper who pulled him over as an "idiot." And he did it with this voice just dripping with contempt.

I've been pulled over a lot for speeding. And every time I was pissed. But you know what else? I was speeding.

I've often wondered how I'd feel being married to a cop. And I think I'd be scared and nervous a lot. And I think one of the scariest thing that this cop would be doing would be walking up to cars on the side of a highway.

I've seen some cops do some shitty things in my life. But when you break a law and get pulled over? Even if you didn't see the emergency vehicle? Hell, I didn't know I was speeding at least twice when I got speeding tickets. But, irritated and annoyed as I might be, silly as I might find a 65 MPH speed limit to be, the cop is just doing his job.

And cops have a hard, dangerous and vitally important job to do.

I suspect if the same trooper pulled someone over on suspicion of something (like being Mexican in Arizona or paying dues to a teacher's union or something), Kasich probably wouldn't have been so quick to cry "idiots!"

I'm starting to kind of enjoy America getting a glimpse of what a Tea Party GOP really means. I'm starting to smell a hippie pinko feminazi homo juggernaut.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


A while back I was following some of the happenings at CPAC, which is this big event where conservatives get together and lay out their plans. One of the things I noted with some happiness was the presence of libertarians. Now, I'm of the school of thought that thinks libertarianism is hopelessly naive and, as such, a pretty dangerous political proposal.

To wit: if it weren't for a USDA, I'm pretty confident mad cow steaks would be on sale for .49 cents a pound at Dominicks right now; I'd be willing to wager that unless I lived in a posher zip code, my water would come flavored with sewage; I'd bet that cars with glass that shatters and front ends that crumple would be the purview of folks who could afford them

The purpose of business is profit. And there's not a damn thing wrong with that. Contra the unfairly earned reputation of liberals, I'm all for businesses running a profit. I love rich people. I'd really love to be one.

But, libertarians believe that civil rights would happen eventually because they would. They believe that cars would meet basic safety standards because more people would want to buy them. But there's a large swath of people that'd be happy to keep black folks out of the restaurants they frequent. And car manufacturers would be happy to sell deathtrap cars on the cheap.

And so government, which does not function to run a profit and which can withstand debt far more easily than any family or business can, has a worthwhile and valuable role in civilized society.

So why am I happy to see the libertarians with a voice at CPAC? Because they're not the tribalistic motherfuckers who've taken over modern politics. I say tribalistic, because it's a real us vs. them thing out there. Hatfield vs. McCoy. Capulet vs. Montague. Sharks vs. Jets. And no unholy alliances like the one between Lizardman Carville and Mary Matalan will put an end to it.

Libertarians actually have a platform, silly as I might think it is.

Which brings me to the George Will column that was so roundly mocked today. The quote:

...the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

There are layers and layers of why this is dumb. The main one, of course, is that most of us have a hard-on for trains so we can stop taking airplanes and what, sweet Oprah, makes you feel more like chained up chattel than modern air travel?

But George Will is probably not actually a dumb guy. But he's happily laying aside the libertarian banner to reach out to the tribe. He's making shit up, yanking rationales out of his fevered imagination, because he wants to feed into the desperate dimwittedness of tribalism - these other folks want trains because they want to strip you of your freedoms! Ignore that implementing high speed rail infrastructure would create a lot of jobs, would make travel far easier, and would just, again I cry out to Dear Oprah, be so cool! Ignore it all, because it makes for a convenient way to reach out to the tribe.

Sadly, Libertarians won't get the liberal back on high speed rail because that'd be government spending and all government is bad (another glass of poop-flavored water please! Can I get mine with a soupcon of arsenic?).

I wonder if ask the Libertarian brethren to consult their bible and they rediscover about how Atlas Shrugged was totes about railroad barons, maybe they'd jump on board...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Politics Bubble

An Ezra Klein tweet directed me to this blogpost today, ordering me to read the last two paragraphs. And I was glad he did, because I found it very edifying:

I've said this get a sense of what politics is like for many Americans, I suggest thinking of something that you do encounter in some way all the time, but that you just have zero interest in. Perhaps sports in general -- or, for sports fans, a major sport that you don't pay any attention to. Perhaps it's current pop music, or HBO shows, or celebrities. Me? NASCAR, the NBA, and any games made since Missile Command and Stargate Defender. The idea is that I actually do encounter and, in a way, retain a fair amount of information about those things in the nature of headlines that I see but skip the stories, or references made in other things I do read or watch, or conversations I've had that veer off in that direction. It's not as if I know absolutely nothing. It's just that the stuff I've heard is not organized at all, and I'm sure I've picked up misinformation along the way, since I don't scrutinize any of it.

Anyway, when you're involved in what's happening in Wisconsin, or Libya, or the budget negotiations in Washington, just keep in mind that most people aren't paying any attention at all.

Doesn't that just clarify things for those of us who live inside the political bubble (AKA, those of us who feel an obligation for understanding what's happening in the world around us).

Then I read on TPM today, that barely half of Americans even KNOW that the HCR law that Obama signed into law last year is, you know, still the law.

A good chunk of the country is walking around thinking that that orange, weepy guy managed to get rid of death panels. Wow.

I hate what I'm about to say (I normally get so irritated when other people say things like this), but I'm saying it anyway: it breaks my heart to think of the people in Libya today who are literally dying for the right to representative government, and we live in a country so spoiled that most of us cannot even be bothered to understand even vaguely the things happening around us.

I have the flu, so I'm kind of bummed in general. But this is the kind of thing that just makes my normally unflagging optimism wane.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Planned Parenthood

So, I've never been pregnant and never had an STD. But I have a Planned Parenthood story. But while I am foul-mouthed and brazen, I'm kind of shy about biological type stuff, so I'm going to try and tell this story as euphemistically as possible.

You know how women have periods, right? And we use tampons? Well, sometimes, when you're younger and maybe a little more careless about things than you would be when you get older, you can, um, forget about things, and convenient removal strings might go missing, and things can get a little, um, awkward.

Stuff can also go wrong with condoms. Not like "we'd better buy a test," but more, um, "where'd it go," you know?

Most women reading this probably know exactly what I'm talking about. It's gross. And I would wager it's a large chunk of the kind of thing Planned Parenthood helps with. That and pap smears for uninsured and handing out condoms and treating STDs and all sorts of valuable health services for women.

But women's health, especially young women's health, stops and starts at abortion for a certain wing of American society. They don't care about the many valuable services Planned Parenthood perform. They only care about abortion.

As Atrios often points out, the anti-abortion movement (and this does not necessarily apply to pro-life people) is first and foremost misogynist. This attack on Planned Parenthood is proof positive of that. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, almost all of my friends went to Planned Parenthood for basic health needs. But, Mike Pence and the rest of the rabid, anti-choice movement couldn't possibly care less about the health needs of young women.

And they don't much care about the health needs of babies once they get born.

Which only serves to underscore my theory that the anti-choice movement (again, this is not necessarily true of pro-life people) doesn't care about the alleged babies. They just hate women.

And, dammit, abortion is a legal procedure in America, as it should be.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sometimes the Things We Document are Not Atrocities

This morning when I came into the office I put Al Jazeera TV on my second monitor. This has been my wont this week.

But, you know, I have a job, and I wasn't really paying attention to what they were saying. I didn't notice Sulieman coming on TV but he was there, made a short statement and then we was gone. I didn't notice. But then I heard the news reader (Adrian something) say "Mubarek has stepped down." I stopped writing the email I was on and looked to the second monitor. And it was... I don't have the words.

No one was talking or analyzing what had happened. Instead, it was just the sound of people in Tahrir Square. Never heard anything like it in my life. From thousands of miles away, without having even known that Mubarek was a dictator until earlier this week (for fucking shame, Rhem. For shame), you could feel it. It was incredible.

All day today Adrian The Al Jazeera news reader asked the reporters who were there, most of whom were Egyptian, to take their reporter hats off and tell him how they felt. I was pretty familiar with them. There was a cute reporter guy name Aymon. And a kind of tough, war correspondent type named Hoda. They'd done their dispassionate reporter thing and let us know what was happening, clued us into the important details and done it like reporters do, from a distance even though they're right in the middle. But when they were invited to take off their reporter hats each and every one said the same thing, "There are no words. It's indescribable." But you could feel it coming out of them.

Behind me, I just heard Rachel Maddow say that this is one of those days that reminds us that we're alive and that we're lucky to be here. And I'm so glad that I had my second monitor and that I decided to go to Arab TV for the story.

I know it could be scary and I know it could be Iran. But, I'm choosing (go figure) optimism. Those people in Tahrir Square today are not going to let themselves be conscripted by another tyrant. It'll be a slog and a battle, but I'm going to be paying attention.

I hope you got to hear it when it happened. It was pretty amazing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'll Protect You, My Child Bride

Two posts tonight! But I had such a moment of clarity about this ad that I had to share. Have you guys seen this:

I told Don when we were watching it that I think this commercial offends or outright pisses off every woman I know. And he said, "Really? Well, it's weird." Or something like that.

But I was wondering why Kay Jewelry keeps running this ad when clearly it gives almost every woman who sees it the heebie jeebies. As I said in my last post, that necklace comes off more as threat than anything else.

And then it hit me! This isn't a commercial for the ladies! It's a commercial for the men. And specifically, that kind of man who has this weird fantasy that every woman walks the earth in a state of near constant fear and that his role will be Protector. Probably he's a guy who notices that when he approaches ladies at the bar, he finds them backing slowly away and looking for their friends and asking nervously if he's the starting QB for the Steelers in the Superbowl.

I wasn't aware that this was such a big market. But I'm pretty sure this commercial has been running for a couple of years.

Next time I'm the mall, I'm steering clear of the Kay Jewelry. I bet it's just chock-a-block with really creepy guys.


There were a few things I was going to write about. First I was going to write a piece about When Facebook Attacks which was all about how weird Facebook can get (I might still write that one). And then I was going to write about how I finally understood that horrible Kay Jewelry commercial (you know... the one with the thunderstorm and the guy who's real creepy with his whole "I'll always be there to protect you against your irrational, childish fears. Here's a pretty necklace that I almost definitely won't strangle you with"). I might still write that one too. But I had an experience tonight...

So my (gak) great niece is spending the night in advance of a trip to Iowa tomorrow. She's a total peach, just this curly headed little moppet with a near constant smile and the brightest little shoe button eyes you've ever seen. But, you know, when you're four and you're spending the night away, sometimes you miss your Mommy and it's a little hard to drift away into sleep. I totally get it, I'm 41 and still miss my Mommy sometimes too. Fortunately, it's OK for me to take a Tylenol PM.

In lieu of drugging the children, I have a much healthier sleep inducement: I bore the shit out of them by reading poetry until they just drift off in lieu of anything better to do. This totally works for all parties because I quite like poetry and can read it in dulcet, sonorous tones. I think. My actual reading voice might be dreadful. (It's hard and disconcerting to listen to yourself, which is the main reason answering machines were phased out in favor of voicemail.)

I started off with Prufrock. This is a good one to start with because it is very rhythmic and even if you don't know what the hell is going on (I know what's going on and have the student loans to prove it), it still sounds really pretty. I then segued into Innisfree, which is a lovely, peaceful poem. At this point both girls were out. But I was enjoying myself so I carried on with Terence, This is Stupid Stuff.

This poem is special to me since both my father and I ended up memorizing it at different stages of our lives and completely independent of the knowledge of the other one's memorization. Just all of the sudden, we both seemed to know it by heart and would perform it despite the groans and pained expressions of everyone else in the room (cretins! philistines!).

So, I was reading it aloud and remembering Dad fondly when I got to the point where Houseman says "Oh, I have been to Ludlow Fair/ And left my necktie god knows where." Suddenly, the memory of my father saying those lines sprang up so vivid. He found that part hilarious and wonderful and pronounced those lines with all sorts of zeal and humor. I could see his eyes crinkle and twinkle and Dad's killer grin.

So, of course, I burst into tears.

Fortunately, I didn't wake the children.

I still feel really fortunate, even after all these years, that a memory of my father can spring up so immediate and vivid. He was always so alive when he was alive, you know?

It's painful, but such a great gift. And it's also so sad. It's so sad that people we love die and we don't get to hear them talk about Terence's damn drunken revelries. It's less sad than not ever having HAD someone who enjoyed Houseman so much. But somehow more sad too. And it puts me to mind of more Houseman. Which I will share below. It's short.

With rue my heart is laden
For many a friend I had
For many a rose-lipt maiden
For many a lightfoot lad

By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade

That shift from maiden/lad to girls/ boys just kills me.

Good night everyone. I hope that somewhere there's someone in your life with a twinkle in their eye who gets a real kick out of good poetry.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From Fart Stories to Middlemarch - I am Nothing if not Narrowly Focused

My good friend, the wise and wonderful JD Love, is reading Middlemarch after having listened to me rave over it a billion times. And while I'll acknowledge that most of the people who've tried to follow me into Middlemarch fandom have given up a few hundred pages in, I will not tolerate broad besmirchments of my beloved book. And over at JD Love's FB page, folks have hurled invective in the direction of my Middlemarch in a manner that simply Can. Not. Stand.

So, listen up, my brothers and sisters, and I will tell you precisely what it is about Middlemarch that I love so much.

Dorothea, our main character, is introduced to us as, undoubtedly, a total asshole. She is smug, self-righteous and given to preachy, mean judginess (shut up, it's a word). But we're also told, from the get go, that Dorothea's primary attribute is fierce, passionate intellectualism and an idealistic faith in her own responsibility to use that to make the world a better place. What happens to a woman like that when she's stuck in a world that not only doesn't allow passionate intellectualism from women, but doesn't even believe it can exist?

If you're Dorothea, you marry the dreadful Edward Casaubon, because he's some kind of intellectual giant of the time and who is also old and icky (I love it when Celia talks about how he looks when he eats). His winter's age foray into marriage is brought to us by his introduction to a young, beautiful, fawning acolyte. He's excited by the prospect parading around his extensive (and dry, boring, smug) intellectualism as she she gazes up adoringly. In the meantime, Dorothea dreams that in her marriage she can be like "one of Milton's daughters, copying Greek, and even Hebrew, without understanding it." Can you imagine having to live like that? To only be able to hope for such meager dregs of the thing that you're most passionate about? You'd be a total asshole too.

And Casaubon won't even give her that much! Instead he just gets disappointed that his child bride doesn't remain forever fawningly worshipful and instead a grows into an adult woman and wife. Dorothea is a faithful, attentive, loving wife, but Casaubon wanted her to stay the kid.

Every character in Middlemarch is flawed, but flawed in understandable ways; flawed mostly because of the claustrophobic society they inhabit, and are interchangeably victims of and culpable in. And, good googly moogly, does George Eliot make this claustrophobic society come alive. It's drawn so artfully, and wittily and expansively.

But it's the end I love the most. In the end, all our characters (except Casaubon, who left the book after managing to be a dickhead from beyond the grave) are redeemed by Dorothea. But not through some grand act. Instead, Dorothea redeems them all through a simple act of decency; by believing Lydgate for no other reason than that there's no reason NOT to believe him. Because she is too good to descend into the petty, village gossip, Dorothea and Lydgate and Rosamund and Ladislaw and Fred (Mary was already OK) are all made better.

But Middlemarch remains the same toxic, claustrophobic place it always was. In the end, people are still talking shit about Dorothea and no one gets their comeuppance. Because that's the way the world works. Dorothea and Will get to be happy, but they are not happy in a vacuum.

Eliot ends her book with this:

...the effects of her life were incalculably diffusive [I love those two words together more than I love anything else I've ever read]. For the growing good of the world is partly dependent upon unhistoric acts and that things are not so ill with you or I as they might have been is half-owing to the number who lived, faithfully, a quiet life and rest in unvisited graves.

In other words, somewhere in the past, someone did the right thing, was a good person, and we don't celebrate then and there are no statues built to honor them, but your life, goddammit, is better for them having been there. Having read that and having read what led up to it and made those last words resonate, I shit you not and I care even less how grandiloquent I might sound, has enriched my life in a very real, very profound fucking way.

And if you haven't gotten that, than that's OK. But, your loss, motherfucker. Don't put it on Middlemarch. Otherwise, I'll blog again about how wonderful Middlemarch is. And, honestly, haven't I done that enough?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Are Not, I Gather, the Pride and Joy of Wisconsin

So, many moons ago, I was working the Sunday day shift at Streeter's. It was a very quiet point in the day, which was odd as it was football season. Normally there'd have been quite a few regulars in watching the game. But on this Sunday, I think it was just me, a doorman and a couple of folks.

In walked a group of people wearing either acid-washed jeans that sagged down over their ample bottoms, or Bottafuoco pants. On top, they had on Packer colors. They were tourists in town to watch the Pack amongst a bunch of FIBs. But despite this impish plan, they were a sullen bunch. Not a smile among them. They sat at one of the big round tables in the middle of the room, and surveyed the joint, sourly.

One of them approached the bar and ordered a pitcher from me. He tipped me the change. I believe it was a quarter. He then returned to his table where he and his posse desultorily poured beer into their mugs. They sat quietly for a few minutes until they noticed the chili bar.

We had a chili bar.

It was disgusting.

The group, made up of men and women, made repeated trips to the chili bar and enjoyed their free chili. I believe there was another pitcher of beer. And another quarter tip. They chatted sporadically, between sips of beer and bites of chili.

After a while, the beer and chili began acting aggressively on what I would have assumed was a stalwart Wisconsin gastrointestinal system. But the chili was disgusting. And would out.

And so this group, men and women, began farting. Not embarrassed "oops that slipped out" farting. But buttcheek lifted off the stool, trumpeting farts. And they didn't even laugh. It was like they were farting for poor profit. Assembly line farting.

After a while, they left me to clean up the old chili and spilt beer from the table.

Now, I'm not saying that ALL Packer fans are rude, poorly-dressed, shamelessly flatulent, bad tippers. But when then Bears roll over the Packers on Sunday, I'll remember that table.

And smile.

Go bears!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hopeful than Hopeless than Hopeful Again

So, my pal Paul is running this series on his blog called Hopelessness Watch. I'm going all big word here, and saying that hopelessness is anathema to me. I am like pathologically hopeful. I am always surprised when I don't win the lottery.

So, I was thinking about countering with a "hopefulness watch." The idea struck me while I was watching the first season of Soap on Netflix. If you are not as old as me, you might not be aware that Billy Crystal played a character named Jody, who was openly gay. That show began airing in 1977. It was something, 30 odd years ago, to have a gay character on TV, and the show should be lauded for its historical significance in not only having a gay character but a gay character who had some depth. In my life, it was the first time I'd ever seen a gay character represented pop culturally beyond just bullshit broad stereotype. And the last I'd see for a really long time.

But there was this one plot development: Jody's boyfriend is a pro football player, who is unwilling to go public with their relationship. Jody offers a solution: he'll get a sex change operation. Because in that show, progressive as it was, wanting to have sex with a man meant you might as well be a woman.

So, I thought "look how far we've come!" I was filled with hope in seeing that even a wildly progressive show like Soap could get simple human sexuality so completely wrong. Seeing the errors of our past makes me feel hopeful about our present. There on my tiny computer screen, I could see real evidence of our progress as a nation.

But then, tonight, I watched this show called Rules of Engagement. And, lo and behold, we meet a lesbian character who we know is a lesbian because she's just like a guy. She likes sports and beer and not communicating and being emotionally retarded. Because she likes to have sex with women, every bullshit, hateful, nasty stereotype about men is extrapolated onto her just like it's 1977 all over again.

And, thus, my hopefulness took a kick to the nuts.

And as I mired in the resulting hopelessness, it suddenly occurred to me that no one watches that show. In all my ample facebooking, I've never seen anyone post "OMG, did you see RoE? David Spade LOLOLOLOL" Why? Probably because it traffics in lazy stereotypes like "men are stupid and emotionally retarded as are lesbians since wanting to have sex with women is all that it takes to make you a man."

American TV is not the cesspool it once was, and we've grown to like a little complexity from our characters, a little depth, a little richness.

And just like that, hopefulness reengaged. Schadenfraudingly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Incivility is Not the Point

I'm pretty much done with mealy-mouthed cries for a return to civility. I'm not sure our political discourse has ever been civil, and I'm not all that excited that it be so. Let's climb into our way back machine: Remember when George Bush was caught on mic calling a NY Times reporter an asshole? I was with old G. Dubya that there was no need to apologize for that. As may be clear from this bloggity, I'm a big fan of calling people assholes. And while I'm not sure that Adam Clymer IS an asshole, I am sure that Bush was perfectly sincere in his assessment.

The problem is not with a lack of civility. The problem is with ginning up anti-government paranoia. Dog whistle at the barely sane with language that lets them know that all their fevered paranoia is RIGHT! Democrats ARE going to take their guns and once those guns are gone, America will become socialist, but not socialist like Sweden but like that movie you saw on TV that one time about how Russia still is and also China, I think.

I don't care how uncivil our political dialog is. But I do care when so many hugely successful political figures have no issue with increasing their fame and fortune by insisting that democratically elected figures are illegitimate and should be "taken out." I care when they speechify about "real Americans," defined as people who share your political views; the tacit follow-through to this being that people who have different political views are NOT real Americans, but pretenders and interlopers. It's not rude to do that, it's dangerous. If we're going to live in this crazy country where any maniac can buy an assault rifle, it seems only sensible that the people insisting that there's a Constitutional right to these assault weapons should take some care to avoid language inspiring their base to strap them on.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm Back, Baby

A quick politics bloggity.

So, I was at the gym today and reading the news on closed captioning. John Boehner was being interviewed by Brian Williams. Williams asks him a question like, "What do you hope to accomplish as speaker," or something like that. And Boehner says "I want to get the America I grew up in back."

Look, I know it's too much to ask of our modern American punditocracy, but wouldn't you just give your eyeteeth if some intrepid young journalist could ask John Boehner what the fuck that means?

I know, I know. When a Republican spouts off vapid, meaningless platitudes it's like they fart rainbows and the eggheads in the press ooh and ahh while their lizard brains return to Mayberry where they sipped chocolate malteds with both Betty and Veronica and it almost never rained.

But, I for one am pretty sure I don't want to live in the America John Boehner grew up in. Admittedly, this is probably because I get my history from reality (which clearly has a liberal bias). And I like living in an America that's slowly divorcing itself from the bullshit good old boys club where uppity bitches like me got shoved into whatever tiny box glorious America wanted to shove them in.

In short, I am a fan of genuine liberty and not the utterly vapid, facile fake liberty that the TP GOP waxes rhapsodic over.

If nothing else, I'm leery of living in the America John Boehner grew up in because it clearly turned him into a raging asshole. But a raging asshole with a really big gavel, motherfuckers!

Can't wait until Johnny B's giant gavel runs into Barack Obama's veto pen.