31 August, 2006

To A Woman In A Public Place

Yes, I know I look like something the cat left on the stoop. I am in sweats and a loose-fitting blouse and flip flops. It's summer, I'm recovering from some painful surgery and pick another excuse.

You, on the other hand took the time to dress yourself in nice hiphugger jeans and a cute baby pink midriff-baring t-shirt with a cartoon character on it. Your shiny blond hair was pulled back nicely in a perky little ponytail. Your keds and baby pink anklets were also a nice touch that pulled the ensemble together well.

But, honey, YOU ARE AT LEAST 40. The clothes you had on were ideal for a sorority girl from Vandy. On her mother they look ridiculous.

I'm well aware of the stupidity slash irony for me to criticise your clothes when mine were a jumbled mess. But I just wanted to let you know my rule of thumb. If your pants show off your c-section scar, choose another pair.

Sounds Like...

I collect acoustic anomalies. I think they happen to be one of the coolest things ever discovered by man.

I fell enthralled with the idea when we went to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. There are two specific spots under the rotunda where a whisper on one side of the room sounds can be heard on the other, just as clearly as if the whisperer was bending toward your ear. The story is that at one point when the legislature met in that room one delegate used the eavesdropping to his advantage, consistantly scooping the party on the other side of the aisle. While that is nefarious as all heck, it's still a cool thing.

A few years ago I was tickled to find that we have a miniature version of that right here in Nashville. The round room at the back of the Green Hills Starbucks has the same effect. If you sit in chairs against the wall, you will perfectly hear a conversation being held by the people in chairs across the room. I found this out by accident when I was trying to read. I kept wondering why a stranger was talking whispering in my ear about her boyfriend leaving her. It annoyed me until I snapped to and realised what was happening.

Last Saturday I discovered yet another acoustic parlour trick and was thrilled beyond belief. Because it's at the Hermitage Library. If ever there was a place you didn't want sound to travel.... Fortunately, this one is outside. There is a covered walkway leading from the library to the parking lot, which is shared with a small public park. There's a pavillion in the park, at least 100 yards from the library. But the acoustics are such that you can clearly hear the activities in the pavilion while standing in the library's walkway. Hubby and I initially thought there had been loudspeakers installed along the library beams. I think this may be called "reflected sound." I just think it's cool.

30 August, 2006

Dryer Lint: When Size Really Doesn't Matter

Boy, that last post was a whole lot of stuff that didn't say anything, huh?

I did want to have something "on record" about the difference between TiVo and OnDemand. And there you have it. But the dirty secret was also that I was really ticked off about something else and didn't even want to go there so I wrote about another, dryer topic.

What am I ticked off about? Well, in another setting I happen to belong to a small group of people. There are other groups in this same setting that are much larger in size. But as is typical with gatherings of people, we've divided along several natural fault lines and those in my smaller bunch tend to be shyer and more comfortable with those they know. And I'd just received word that several key people--group sponsors--are toying with leaving the group, in part because it's too small. There is even talk of disbanding the group.

That's what makes me mad. Granted, there are only six to eight regular attenders in our group, while the next one over can boast twice that number. Should that matter? None of us are paid, so the group leaders aren't missing some type of reimbursement by facilitating a smaller bunch. There is no extra rent charged, so the existence of our smaller unit doesn't cost extra. There is another group, equally small, that is not only supported eagerly but encouraged--despite its size. Yet that group is set up to appeal to a more select demographic. Probably why no one has talked about cutting them loose.

But my bunch is the quiet group of wierdo thinkers. For various reasons--one of them being the fact that few in our group has kids--we're sort of the odd men out. I think that none of us mind that. Except apparently the leaders. Who no longer want to lead, and wonder if we should be a group at all. And that makes me feel both even more left out and abandoned.

Oh well. This is ever the problem in groups like this. This constant attempt to establish "worth". And right now I feel distinctly unworthy. Not a good thing. Here's the thing, people of America.

What you do for a living isn't who you are. Making more money than another person doesn't make you automatically better than the other person. If you live in a big house, good for you. If you drive a big car, good for you. I'm glad for your success. But the fact that something isn't large or expensive or flashy doesn't mean that it isn't important.

OnDemand Vs. TiVo: The Great War Rages

I've been a TiVo junkie for awhile now. TiVo's been the best thing to happen to television since colour.

But I must say that Comcast OnDemand has lately been giving my TiVo a run for its money.

Let us analyse both services by their various aspects.

1. Interface

TiVo has a much more user-friendly interface. Within the Tivo universe there are several ways to locate a program, which gives the viewer a more direct way to select her viewing. This is preferable when the viewer knows exactly what she wants to see. Want an episode of Friends? Search aphabetically. Want a Harrison Ford movie? Search by Actor Wishlist, subcatagory Movies. Want a Comedy? Search by Genre.

By contrast, the OnDemand service is more akin to an onion. The intro screen opens with the broadest categories (Free Movies; Pay-Per-View Movies; Premium Channels; etc.), forcing the viewer to drill down to her ultimate choice.

I'd say that TiVo wins this round.

2. Response Time

The TiVo responds automatically to remote control inputs in most cases. Drag time is very rare.

The same can not be said for OnDemand. Drag is a huge problem with this service. Fifteen- and twenty- second waits are not uncommon. This is frustrating when the viewer is in the mood to simply relax in front of the television.

TiVo also wins this round.

3. Program Selection

In this area it is somewhat akin to comparing apples to apple pie. A TiVo will allow you to select any program available to you via broadcast at the time the program is broadcast, provided you would normally receive the channel. Let's use my new favourite show, The Wire as an example.

I can program my TiVo to record episodes of The Wire automatically. Whenever HBO broadcasts an episode, my TiVo will grab it. I can then save this episode for as long as I want. If I want to keep all episodes of The Wire indefinitely, that's my perogative for as long as I have the hard disk space.

With OnDemand, I can watch all of the available episodes of The Wire whenever I want, as long as HBO has them up. They had been rebroadcasting Season Three at the rate of one per week. But they had the entire season available as a block on OnDemand. However, they will rotate their stock of programs. If you want to see Season Three of The Wire, you had better do so before mid-September when it rotates out of availability.

I'd call this a draw. There are ups and downs to both methods of program selection. This is definitely one of those areas where it pays to have access to both technologies.

4. Program Quality

Everything on OnDemand is at the highest possible digital quality, with HD selections now on the way.

TiVo, on the other hand, records at variable qualities, with better-quality recordings eating vastly more hard disk space. We currently have an 80-hour TiVo...if we record everything at low quality. While this makes me nostalgic for the antenna-fuzzed programming of my childhood it doesn't always add to the viewing experience. It is possible to record everything at Best Quality. That, however, will pare down my recording capacity to about 20 hours. Again, the only limitation is hard disk space. Expand the hard disk and expand your quality options. But that value-added expansion is also a dollars-added option. Not cool.

I'd have to say that OnDemand wins this round.

5. Advertisements

This is the BIGGIE. Both systems feature onboard advertisements...or they did until a few days ago.

TiVo's ads have generally been the "gold star items". They are listed unobtrusively on the main screen, and you can select to view them if you wish. Because all Gold Star items tend to have a bit of cache (movie trailers, high-budget concept ads, etc.) they draw viewers.

But the OnDemand advertising....Dear Lord, what can I say? A never-changing video with an obnoxious and infectious soundtrack ran in the upper right hand corner during all the menus, save the final program info box. Given the Onion style of menu browsing, this meant exposure of several minutes in many cases. It was horrible, intrusive and ate bandwidth. This had the twin drawbacks of being horribly irritating and slowing the navigation process even further. Yet for some reason (common sense?) this doohicky went away a few days ago. Hopefully it will never return.

For right now, both services are tied in this area. But if OnDemand brings back that stupid video you can bet they'll lose.

6. Recording

Both services allow you to record broadcast programming as it is being broadcast. However, given the interface difficulties with OnDemand, I've never been able to get this to work properly. For instance, hitting "record" means that the program will start recording...in about 30 seconds to a minute. No such foolishness happens with TiVo. And I'm not quite sure how long the "saved programs" are kept in the OnDemand Queue. I believe it's only a few hours.

With TiVo your recording starts right away, and in some cases it can start in the past. If you have been watching a channel for up to thirty minutes and decide that you want to record the program you're currently viewing, selecting "best quality record" will actually store from the thirty-minute buffer, not just from the record-request point. And you can save programs for as long as you like.

TiVo wins this round handily.

So in summary I'm definitely still preferring TiVo, but I'm quite glad to have both options available. If I had to give one up right now I'd say farewell to OnDemand. Yet I don't, so I'm keeping both. They work well together.

29 August, 2006

Meme me me

Connie, the blogosphere's own Mary Tyler Moore--she lives in Minnesota--has tagged me for a meme. I haven't done a meme in ages! I love memes. And this one promises to be a good one. Here goes the Geneology Meme.

1. Which famous person would you most like to learn that you are descended from?

Without a doubt, Thomas Jefferson. The man was completely and utterly brilliant. To have even a watered-down version of his genes would be a remarkable thing.

2. Which famous person would you hate to learn that you are descended from?

This is a hard one, because there a quite a few despicable humans who've walked the planet. But I'd probably go with Josef Stalin.

3. If you could be ancestor to any living famous person, who would it be?

No thank you. I'll pass on this one. I'm a creature of my time, and far too entertwined with the here and now to want to be anywhere else. Being the parentage of a now-famous person would exile me to another era.

4. Which of your ancestors would you most like to meet?

My genetic grandmother on my father's side. I was never able to meet her, and I'd like to have a bit of sense about her contribution to the sauce of my goose.

5. Tag five people

Ivy (for her Parents Connect blog. It's about parenting...), Huck, cause I want to see what he'll say...Sarcastro, because I REALLY want to see what he'll say, especially now that he's a new stepparent. And anybody else who will play along. Usually no one responds to my tags. I'm the deadhead of memes.

Silver Lining Part II

I think these posts are my equivalent of those classified ads in honour of various saints. Do people still do those? I don't read the classifieds anymore, but I used to love those tidbits. "In honour of St. Jude. Found Wedding Ring." Those saint messages are often the greatest short stories. Somewhere recently (if it was your blog, I'm sorry for not remembering) I was reminded of Hemingway's great piece of flash fiction:
For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.
Saint classifieds are kind of like that.

When you feel like God has done something good for you--no matter how trivial it seems to the outside world--you want to tell people about it. Since I have a blog, this is where I tell people. Especially the people who've patiently waded through the bad bits.

So here's today's silver lining. It begins with my wanting a salad. A specific salad that is only sold at Panera. Not a bit of lettuce with croutons and ranch dressing, but a sublime mix of specially-marinated, grilled chicken, dried apples, gorgonzola, roma tomatoes...ahhhh. I'm hungry just thinking about it. My love, the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad. Lucky for me the Panera is a bit over a mile away and easy to get to. So Tim and I jaunted over, only to see a little sign on the door that says they were closing early. I missed my beloved dinner by 17 minutes.

Never fear! There's a new Panera open in Mt. Juliet. Granted, that's a 15 minute drive from the Hermitage Panera, but it was a nice evening and we both work out of the house so a bit of a scenery change was not necessarily a bad thing. Funnily enough, the Mt. Juliet Panera was also closed. I knew it was bad news when the manager met us outside. He was handing out bags of free bread and apologising to the 5 carloads of people in quest for a late supper. I was one of those people. I was also the one who politely but frustratedly said they should coordinate with the Hermitage store to not be closed on the same night, as we had driven all the way from Hermitage. He was surprised at both the fact the other store was closed and that some person was crazy enough to want Panera food that badly. So he gave us a bunch of coupons.

No, I didn't get my salad. But the silver lining--the little gift from God (and the manager of the Mt. Juliet Panera)--was two free loaves of bread, three coupons for free loaves of bread, three coupons for free Panera pizzas and three coupons for $2.00 off any salad.

Now sure, this is no big deal but in my world where I just praised God for miracles, getting free loaves of bread (and a total of five loaves at that!) seems like a bit of a shout-out from the Lord.

If someone gives me two free fish tomorrow, I'm gonna have a heart attack! ;-p

28 August, 2006

Don't Look At The Water

Saturday I ate lunch with some very nice people in a semi-spontaneous gathering. One part of the lunch was spent on me complaining (non redhat readers substitute more appropriate "b" word here...) about the general unfairness of life. How it always seems like those who work hard get stuck digging for change in the Blazer's ashtray while those who sit back and idle their way through life keep having society hand them blank checks.

The always-wise John H. summed it up nicely, thusly. "You're basically talking about Ecclesiastes."

I suppose he's hit the nail on the head. Although in truth I'm always less of a Solomon and more of a Peter. Not the good post-Quo-Vadis Peter, either. I'm the namby-pamby Peter who is constantly whining at Jesus, demanding proof and missing the general point of it all. Granted, I do have a lot to whine about these days. I won't list everything out again because I live in Nashville and everyone else has already cornered the market on writing country songs. Which is what my life has become this summer. (On a tangent, did you know that many of the greatest love songs are actually about the death of a dog? Case in point: "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue?")

So the other night early morning I'm lying in bed bawling my eyes out over the general craptasticness of it all when I "hear" this voice. For those of you of the athiest persuasion, I'm not hearing voices. But I promise you that if you are in dialogue with the Holy Spirit you can tell when your being "talked" to. It's a thought you hear in the deepest part of your soul. That's the only way I can describe it.

"Don't look at the water."

And that's when it hit me, early Sunday morning. That all of this--my dog's health, stretching a budget that's been motheaten by unexpected emergencies, continuing pain and all the rest--is the water. Logic says you that you won't make it and that you'll drown. But faith says that you've seen Jesus do it and you are compelled to do it, too. To run childlike across the whitecaps to embrace the Lord.

But if you're anything like me at 4:30 in the morning all you can see is the sea. And I was up to my eyeballs in the green froth of Galilee. The idea of NOT looking seems both impossible and utterly freeing. I've been trying my best to lock eyes on God's goodness.

This is what I've seen since:

--An unexpected meal cooked for us by a woman from our church.
--An unexpected check that will cover a large portion of the dog's vet bill for this week
--Several nice encounters with good people who have cheering words, good jokes and warm hearts

And that's just in one day. I keep telling myself that the grievous circumstances of right now are impossible to live through. And I'm probably correct. But it's also impossible to walk on the sea. But that's been done. All we have to do is keep our eyes on God and not look at the water.

25 August, 2006

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Empathising With Brooke Shields

The Daily Mail tells a new side to the story of Tom Cruise's tumble from Paramount.

Paula Fortunato, 43, the wife of 83-year-old Sumner Redstone, the Viacom chairman who sacked Cruise, took a dislike to the actor after he publicly criticised the actress Brooke Shields for using post-natal anti-depressants.

You and me both, Paula. You and me both. Although in my case I think the dislike happened a few years ago and was just confirmed by the Brooke Shields idiocy.

Redstone estimated that Cruise's off-screen behaviour cost his latest movie, Mission: Impossible III, between £50 and £75 million in lost box office revenues even though the film was, he said, 'the best of the three movies' in the action series.

I can vouch for this--at least in part. We specifically didn't see it because we didn't want to support Cruise. Of course, our two unpurchased tickets were not 25 million pounds apiece, so I'm sure there were others out there like us.

Sources say Fortunato told her powerful husband, "I never want to see another Tom Cruise movie again".

You and me both, Paula. You and me both.

Me And The Red Hat Ladies

My mom is a Red Hat Lady. Kind of. Typical of my always-practical mother, she takes the good and leaves the bad. So she hangs with this group of kindred over-sixties, but they don't wear red hats. Which is, to my mind, the ultimate irony. The hats are the whole point. The club was founded by a group of women who read the Warning poem by Jenny Joseph. The famous poem's most famous stanza reads::
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandles, and say we've no money for butter.

The whole poem is about being eccentric and different. So, naturally, it's a good basis for a national club of Joiners don't you think? And then, in the ultimate irony my mother joins to belong to a group but they don't wear the red hats. Oh well. I guess maybe that's their way of being eccentric and different.

Anyway, it came to my attention yesterday that my beloved mother has found a new way to entertain her hatless hat friends. She prints off various blog entries of mine and reads them aloud to the group.

Let us pause and reflect. First upon the fact that my mother reads my blog, and further upon the fact that my mother knows how to print things off the computer.

I'm kind of flattered that my hatless mother would endeavour to amuse her hatless hat friends with the things I write. Yet in a way I am six again, sitting on a phone book on the bench in front of my grandmother's piano at Christmas to play Jingle Bells. Two-handed. Which means that somewhere out there my cousine Christine is a world-renowned published author on her way to the Pulitzer. Because whenever I'd have to play something for everyone on my grandmother's piano, Christine could do it better. After I finish this entry I'll be snooping around Amazon.

Back to the hatless hat ladies....Apparently on Wednesday mom read them my Counting Blessings post from a few days ago. And they dutifully copied down my URL and blog title. Just in time for me to use the "b" word in the next day's entry. I am chagrinned. But as I ponder it, I think I'm going to start my own club. In honour of that, I'm starting my own poem too.

Warning: Redux by Katherine Coble

When I am in my thirties I will occasionally cuss
When I owe extra on my cell phone and my brand of knee highs go offsale at Target.
I will wear sweats around the house
And take off my bra as soon as I walk through the door.

I shall have no shame in owning five-dollar shoes
Or having my only coat come from Goodwill because I hate to shop for coats.
I will eat dinners in front of the TV
That were made for me by the nice people at Stouffer's.

I shall pretend that I'm grown-up
But keep stuffed monkeys on my desk
And collect Happy Meal Toys that make me smile.

So everyone start having meetings where you bring stuffed monkeys. We can call ourselves Stuffed Monkey ladies. And if you are anything like my mom, you don't even have to have the monkey.

24 August, 2006

It's This Kind Of Thing That Makes Me Question Global Warming, Evolution And All That Other Science Stuff

I learned things in elementary school. The alphabet. My times tables. The Solar System. I accepted it all without question.

Now they tell us that Pluto is not a planet.

Okay, fine. We've kicked poor little glasses-wearing, highwater-pants Pluto out of the Solar System club.

Science is full of accepted thoughts, like little Pluto's planethood, that get revisited and rethought after more information is uncovered. Just ask anyone about the four humours.

Now, I'm not denying science at all. I firmly believe in it's usefulness as one of the children of Philosophy. But let's be honest. When certain people insist that Science is Truth and cannot be questioned, that it's rules and findings are concrete and that acceptance of those findings equals enlightenment I'm inclined to now say "Tell that to Pluto."

Oh. That's Right. Why The Music Business Is Struggling

That's what it was. And that's why I couldn't remember it. We weren't in Kroger, we were in CD Warehouse. And the topic was "why the CD business is faltering" and what my latest theory is.

I've brought up various components of my theory before, but I think after my experience today at CDW (collision damage waiver! who was a travel agent for far too long? Never mind...) I have hit the nail on the head.

People are buying music online instead of full CDs because music stores are torturous to shop in for any length of time. Yeah, I know that I'm old, but I've finally reached the age where I've got enough disposable income to actually be able to afford music now and again. But I have no desire to hang out in the places where they generally cell the CDs because I'm afraid I will be deafened by the screaming, pounding selection that the heavily-pierced white gangsta kid with extra eyeliner thinks is So Kewl That It Must Be Played At 11.

It's never Warren Zevon. It's never Meat Loaf. It's usually something that sounds like fevered Norse gods demolishing Iceland with jackhammers.

I know that musical taste varies from person to person, and that some of you will mock me for even thinking that anyone under 25 would choose to listen to Meat Loaf without being tased. But anyone who has ever worked retail or food service knows that there is Music For Luring The Customers In and Music For Ushering The Customers Out Quickly. For living examples, hie thee to a mall and listen to what is being piped in to encourage you to hang out there and visit Wicks N Sticks, Suncoast and The Body Shop. Then hop over to a counter service restaurant and soak in the "eat your burrito and then vacate this table" tunes. They both have their place.

But it is only in a record (?) store where the music is designed to cause you physical pain. To knock fillings loose. And to make you look frantically over your shoulder to make sure there are no Rahowa lads coming to torch your car in the parking lot. While I'm glad that otherwise disenfranchised guys named Morris can act out their aggression AND earn $7.12 an hour, I'm still thinking that if you want to get people to buy your product you should sell it in venues that don't alienate them.

Until that day comes, I'm sticking to the Apple store.

What Was It?

Never ever tell your spouse that you think you "may write a blog post about it."

Because I guarantee you that no matter how interesting the topic was while standing in the checkout lane at Kroger, you won't remember it by the time you sit down to write your blog.

22 August, 2006

Canine Classism

I'm trying really hard to not make every post about dogs because my problem doesn't need to be everyone else's pain. But I do a fair amount of research into our issues with Casey, which in part means reading what other people have written on the internet.

I know that our local blogosphere has been awash with the pit bull controversy, for good reason. Dog snobbery needs to be discussed. And so I'm coming at it from the other end, having just read something that made me about as angry as I have ever been.

Casey is a Bernese Mountain Dog. They are a fairly uncommon breed, but well-thought of generally. As with everything Hubs and I do, we decided on a Berner after literally months of research into various dog breeds and considerations about non-breed shelter dogs. For various reasons we settled on four breeds (American Eskimo, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland and Bernese) and then narrowed that down further. We made our choices based on temperment, lifestyle compatibillity and looks--we both prefer long-haired dogs. We were in our early twenties and completely unaware that in most circles a Bernese (or "Berner") is considered a designer "boutique" dog.

We found out when every breeder we contacted put us on waiting lists as long as THREE YEARS. All of the breeders asked things about the size of our home, the acreage of our yard, our employment status, etc. Some even asked for credit reports. Just to make sure we were the "right kind" of Berner owner. We didn't play along with the credit report people because that was just a little too much. Besides, we were buying a house at the time and didn't want dozens of enquiries from dog breeders showing up and mucking about our chances. And it seemed over the top nosy.

We adopted Casey through a roundabout series of serendipitous events. He fell into our lap after a local vet's waiting list fell through and they had six pups unexpectedly on their hands. We ended up with one of them, two years sooner than expected. We gladly took our names off the waiting lists and went home to love our puppy. And I tell you that for the last seven years few dogs have been as loved as this one. Joking with him tonight I told him the problem on his bone was probably just the rot from being so spoiled. This is the black humour that keeps me from drinking myself to death.

Anyway, tonight as I was reading up on how other Berner-owneds have chosen to treat their kids' cancers, I came across one lovely woman's opinion. In a nutshell she claims that since chemo treatments for dogs are $1,000 each treatment and Berners are prone to cancer that no "Average Joe" (her words, not mine) should ever own one of these dogs. Because they can't or won't pay for the chemo, which can run around $15,000 total.

Excuse me, you elitist bitch. And pardon my french. But understand this. Love does not come with a price tag written in dollars and cents. I'm an Average Joan, married to an Average Joe. We have decided against the chemo not because of the price in currency but because of the price in cameraderie. Casey cannot articulate his suffering to us. We know they say that dogs don't handle chemo as badly as humans, and that's probably true. And if you choose to go that route for whatever reason, Godspeed. But also understand this. Our dog has loved and been loved as much as it is possible for hearts to stretch. And we feel our best tribute to that love is to understand the kindness of an appropriate goodbye.

It makes me sick to think that there are people out there who would strive to deny me the love of my dog because of some nebulous junk such as money.

That *(^&*^&^* Katie Couric Ad

So I'm watching Criminal Minds the other night, and I catch this promo spot for the New CBS Evening News Starring the New And Improved Katie Couric With Shoulder Length Highlights.

Aside from looking like a commercial for yeast infection medication, there was one other thing that bothered me about the spot.

That would be what she actually said.

I can't find the actual transcript online, but I'll keep looking. Until then, the phrases that stick in my mind are
We want to inform, enlighten and educate you.

and the closer is something like
We hope you'll walk away with a new way of looking at things, saying "hey, I hadn't thought of it that way."

Folks, I'd just like to remind everyone that this is news. Not International Gossip. Not Civics Class. You are supposed to keep me informed about the events of the day. You ARE.NOT.SUPPOSED.TO.TELL.ME.WHAT.TO.THINK.ABOUT.THOSE.EVENTS.

You are journalists and anchorpersons. You are not teachers, ministers, nagging grandmothers or health professionals.

My Samuel L. Jackson Story (Once Removed)

This is actually my husband's Samuel L. Jackson story, but since I don't have one of my own I figured I'd steal his. In the spirit of all of the SLJ overload from this weekend.

Once upon a time, Hubs worked with a management consulting firm in the Risk Management arena. That meant that he had to travel twice a month to Bermuda--the capitol of insurance in the Western Hemisphere, and thus the capital of Risk Management professionals as well. Travelling to Bermuda twice a month sounds glamorous until it's you who has to do it. Hubby has several phrases he tells people about this time, the chief one being that a conference room in Bermuda looks the same as a conference room in Nashville. He's probably right.

One early morning as he was trying to make it to his Bermudan conference room for a meeting, he had one foot in the cab. Out of nowhere a large black man comes barrelling through and shoves him aside.

"Excuse me, but this is my cab" is all Hubs could say. He was pretty much in shock. He had to make sure he was at the office on time for this particular meeting. It was one of those facetime-with-the-bigwigs-to-insure-the-future-of-your-job things.

"Sorry" said the Bad M----F-----r. "I have to make a tee time."

Yep. That's right. Sam Jackson very seriously jeopardised my husband's job, and the jobs of three other men. So that he could make it to the golf course on time.

We hate him in our family.

When we went to Snakes On A Plane on Saturday, the last thing Hubs said to me before the movie started was "I hate putting money in that cabstealer's pocket."

The bad weekend grosses for SOAP make me feel kinda, I dunno, aware of karma.

21 August, 2006

Gripping, Breaking News

So since I'm back at work, I'm doing my "back at work" things, which includes taking frequent work breaks to surf the net for news. I work for myself and my boss is lenient, although she still has a "no porn" policy. Porn freaks me out. It's so fake.

Anyway, back to the story at hand.

I'm surfing the headlines on Excite, hoping to learn something about the world outside my office when I come across this article.

The headline?

Hugh Laurie Plays U.S. Doctor on 'House'

Yessir. That's important to know. That show is one of the most popular on TV, getting ready to air it's third or fourth season in main run and catching all others up in syndication. Laurie has been on the cover of at least half a dozen magazines in the last eighteen months, with the word 'House' somewhere in the general region of his face.

I can see why we need this timely article on the wire.

On the bright side, I love me some Hugh Laurie...

Counting Blessings

My grandmother went to an old fashioned little Baptist church in a dying farm town. It was one of those white clapboard buildings where no one is under 40 unless one of the baker's dozen parishioners brings her grandchildren. They had the cardboard fans in all the pews, with a watercolour Jesus knocking on a door. The fact that they were sponsored by the local funeral home always made me think that Jesus was coming to take away a dead body--The Galilean Undertaker or something like that.

The style of hymns we sang went with the style of the church. I still remember the big four. "Trust and Obey"; "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"; "How Great Thou Art"; and "When Upon Life's Billows".

That was a strange song to learn when you were four and five years old, but it does capture the imagination. Frankly, I think that one hymn is a large reason for my preferring hymns to worship choruses. I'm a wordy person. Tell me this isn't a mouthful:
When upon life's billows
You are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged,
Thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings,
Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you
When you see what God has done.

As Mr. Off The Marketastutely pointed out, it does appear that we are living on a patch of dark cloud over here these days. I am tempest-tossed, or as C.S. Lewis once said,
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.

And that right there is exactly the problem. The shadow of the misery, the darkness piling on darkness.

And that's why a seemingly bromidal task like "counting blessings" is the best thing I know to do at this time.

So here goes nothing:
1. I have a loving spouse
Lewis, in his magnificent gift to everyone, A Grief Observed writes about the death of his wife. Thankfully this possible impending death is not that of my husband. As tragic as it is, God has left me with other comfort.

2. My ill health
For weeks I laid in bed or on the couch loaded with drugs and watching summer pass by my window. And I wondered what the point of it was. Why was I just laying there with little company other than my dogs? Hours and hours were spent with my big black dog at my side, and me angry that I couldn't go places and do things. Now that I realise those may be some of the last healthy days of his life, and I got to spend nearly every minute with him I thank God for slowing me down to enjoy that precious time. Although maybe next time He could just give me a cold.

3. What Pete Townsend Said
Was it Pete Townsend? "Hope I die before I get old..." Me, personally, I look forward to being old. Good thing, seeing as how it happened about five years ago. But for Casey, our beloved dog, it appears that disease may take him now. He's only seven. He's had the spirit of a puppy, the boundless energy and good heart of a young dog. As hard as it will be to watch him diminish rapidly, there is maybe a tender mercy in having him live eternally in our hearts as a puppy, without the years of infirmity that old age brings to dogs. I would keep him forever if I could, but I've always known that wouldn't happen. Maybe this is a sort of kind alternative. Ask me again in awhile.

4. All of you who read this and respond kindly
When I first got the dogs I worked at A Horrible Job with Very Mean People. My dogs were still puppies--not even a year old--but in the course of one lunchtime conversation I mentioned that I would have to take time off from whatever job I was doing when my dog(s) died. The Chief VMP mocked me incessently, repeating that statement to everyone up to and including the president of the company. "She's going to take time off when her DOG dies!" When I would take time off for any other reason she would hector me. "Did your precious DOG die yet?" The implication always being that dogs were not anything worthy of that degree of consideration. But here in blogland I've actually come across more people with real sympathy and empathy for this situation than I ever thought possible. I'm thankful to know each and every one of you and to share in your kind spirit. And I only hope that I can one day repay all of you the kindnesses you've shown me.

And there's more and more and more, which I won't recount here. This is already long past the polite length for a blog entry. But that's the nice thing about taking comfort in counting blessings. When you actually look, there may be more than you ever assumed.

20 August, 2006

Snakes On A Plane

I saw it. I enjoyed it.

18 August, 2006

The Thing You Hope You Never Hear

"You know, bone cancer is pretty common in these guys."

Yes. I know.

I've been telling myself about infected toenails, splinters and sore paws. This is the dog that once cost us $300 for an ultimate diagnosis of carpet burn on the footpad.

I still feel like I was looking at some other dog's x-ray. And that my dog will turn out to be fine and that he has more than 90 days to live.

There's an outside chance that for some unknown reason he just has a really bad infection. God, I hope so, but I fear not.

This morning I went for my surgery followup where the doctor told me he was able to free my left ovary from where it had adhered to my bowel and that I should have a lot less pain from now on.

And you know what, if I could go back and let them hack my guts to pieces and sew ovaries to bowels and kidneys and lace my innards with glass if it would save my dog I think I just might let them do it.

More Books

Blogs have apparently become a bit of a source for Entertainment Weekly. The last issue I perused actually had a whole sidebar squib devoted to the fruits of the PODdy Mouth blog. Ms. Mouth has created a niche for herself by reviewing Publish On Demand titles. (Todd A.! Paging Todd A.!)

She sports a whole list of worthy POD titles. It's exciting. This is the type of stuff that is going to revolutionise the way readers access books. Hopefully. And it looks like I may have a few to add to my list.

Anyway, I'm in the middle of a big ol' Irish reading kick (which does not, I repeat not extend to James Joyce) and have just started Frank Delany's Ireland, which so far I can recommend. It's one of those books where the words wash over you in a blanket of atmosphere, and the stories are so well-crafted it makes me ashamed to think I call myself a writer. I highly recommend it. For now. Maybe by the time I finish it, I'll have changed my mind. (That's been known to happen.)

There is a book I haven't finished, and it pains me to say so. The book that everyone called "The book of the summer", that Stephen King praised with glowing words in Entertainment Weekly. (Another aside....Perhaps I'm too plebian in take reading recommends from EW. I think I should be more erudite and pull titles down from the NYRB or some such. I do, I do. But I don't have a copy of NYRB or PQ in the bathroom. Hence all the EW stuff. Besides, those books are still good.) Anyway. This book I can't finish.

Scott Smith's The Ruins.

Don't get me wrong. It's well-written. Compellingly so. And the jacket features King's effusive glow of a blurb, as well as enthusiastic praise and encouragement for all those Lost fans out there. You know..."If you enjoy TV's Lost, you'll like this bloodbath of a book!!!" Because that is what this thing is. A bloodbath. A gruesome, bleak and macabre descent into the basest nature of humanity. And since I myself was being cut open I figured I'd table it for another time. Hubby went ahead and finished it, and can only shake his head with a grim smile when I ask him if it "gets any more gruesome" than where I left off. That right there tells me to stick with my Eireann fairy stories for awhile longer.

Next on my list, hopefully, is The Book About Blanche And Marie, which novelises the two paralell stories of Marie Curie--you know her--and Blanche Whitman. BW was well-known as the Hysterical Woman, who was intimately poked and prodded repeatedly in the public venue by scientists searching for the cause and cure of "hysteria". She later worked for Curie. The ultimate irony is that while she found intellectual respect in Curie's lab, she ended up losing three limbs to radiation posoining. Decidedly not a "summer read", but since summer seems to be packing up, I'll get to it soon enough.

Anyone else have any ideas on what I should read?

17 August, 2006

Stationery & Sausages

I'm writing thank-you notes to all of the kind people who brought us various versions of chicken during my convelescence. Not only was the food delicious, but since my husband doesn't eat red meat I discovered new ways of preparing poultry. Always a good thing.

When I sat down to write the notes I realised that this is the first time in more than a year that I'd handled a box of stationery. I worked for a stationer for nearly five years. A cost-based accounting stationer. What does that mean? Well, it means that for every pretty notecard you see, I became very well-versed in how many cents extra it costs to have glitter on the card, printed lining on the envelopes, etc. I could pick up a box of stationery (or a paper plate or a photo album) in the store and tell you the quality of the merchandise, where in China it was made and how much royalty the artist got for her design. (Those who paint flowers for stationery are generally women.)

In all those five years, the shoemakers children never got notes, because I refused to write letters. Too much like work. But now I've good occasion for using stationery and no excuse for not writing. I'm surprised at myself, because when I cracked open the box, I clucked my tongue at the cello wrap. (That's an extra half a penny that they didn't need to spend and I'm just going to throw away.) I also clucked my tongue at how the art director didn't make sure the envelope liner matched the notecards. They apparently printed the notecards with a fifth colour but only sprung for four colours when printing the envelope liner. They should have spent more there and less on the cello.

And I'm freaked out that somewhere in the back of my mind I actually still care about these types of things. So let me warn you. I know they say that you should "do what you love" when you find a job. And that's true to an extent. But if there's something you enjoy--stationery, music, movies, books--you might want to stay away from making them for a living. Nothing destroys your appetite for anything like the manufacturing process.

16 August, 2006

One Fiend From Bangkok

Imagine finding a child sex offender in Thailand. What are the odds, I ask you?

So I've crawled from under my rock, peeked at Nashville Is Talking, and seen the breaking news. A man--identity withheld--has been apprehended in Bangkok for his participation in the death of JonBenet Ramsey. And of course, two tunes repeat themselves. I'll probably never get them out of my head. The first is that annoyingly catchy One Night In Bangkok Murray Head single from the musical "Chess." (I ask you. Bang-cock. Head. How more juvenilely titillating can you get?)

The other is my belief that the Ramseys were more intimately involved in the crime. I have an instinct about these things borne out of a deep-seated cynicism and long years of watching people act like total vermin. So when very wealthy people have their child's body turn up in an unused room in their basement, and the child is beautiful and the mother is sickly and the father is older that right there spells 'inside job' to me. Maybe it's a classist thing. It's not so much that they have lots of money, or that they are beautiful and prosperous. They have unused rooms in their basement. That gets me. You have rooms in your house you never go into, then you have too much house I think. It's a symptom of a lifestyle that screams danger. To have to have a big, fancy home that you don't need--with much of it going unused--says that you are more about how things look than how things matter and that's when crap ends up happening.

So maybe I'm wrong and this guy they're bringing back from the far east in state-issue jewelry is just your average run-of-the-mill shorteyes. He's not in any way connected to the Ramsey family other than through this death. I have to say that I'm betting that isn't the case. But for the sake of argument let's say that it is. How did he pick that child? Again, more concerned with how things look than how things matter, someone decided that it was a good idea to paint up that small girl like one of the bar girls on Gunsmoke and trot her around. Granted, I'm a woman who won't even show her dogs. If I had ponies, I wouldn't show them either. The idea of parading a human being in such a fashion has always struck me as grisly. I'm fine with the beauty pagents for girls of age. If they decide on their own they want to show the goods, hey, it's a free market. But little kids? Let's teach them to read before we teach them the finer points of eyeliner.

But I'm not saying anything new. Frankly, my money is still on some type of familial involvement. But that's just speculation from somebody without a dog in the fight. Or a horse in the race. Or a small child tarted up and paraded in public.

The Last Leaf

There's a pretty good O. Henry story about a convalescent woman. Granted, she was on her deathbed and I'm not. But I tell you now the honest truth...it's a better writer than I who can make the tale of laying around in pain an interesting one. Because I'm not hanging on by a thread, waiting for a tiny leaf to fall. I'm just watching a whole lot of television, reading a whole lot of books and drinking a whole lot of water.

I'm also kicking myself because there hasn't really been anything to write about for weeks, unless you really care about Mel "I NEVER said I liked the Jews" Gibson or the three-way yawn of a death march for the Tennessee Republican party. And then I go get myself taken offline right when some jokers try to blow up some planes using a method pulled from the yellowing, water-stained pages of a paperback thriller. Exploding liquid in contact cleansing bottles? Who would have thought of that, besides about seventeen thousand pulp novelists qwertying their way to a payday.

The terror thing happened the morning I was going through the pre-op mess, and it followed me from waiting room to waiting room. I'd sit there, with progressively more paperwork in my hand and band-aids on my arms, watching news people try to find a way to make "nothing" sound exciting. Man, does 24-hour News just blow or what? The thing happened. They caught the guys, and it messed up air travel for everyone else. It's a big story, but it still has a beginning, middle and an end. Yet the various stations piped into Summit Same-Day Surgery all tried to make it drag on. A brief note for you fellas and females: invest in a dictionary and/or a thesaurus. Massive crows of people standing around waiting for planes at Heathrow and Atlanta are not "chaos". I don't care what CNN says. "Chaos" is people trampling each other. Chaos is small fires and rioting and yelling and looting. "Crowded" and "Chaos" are not inherently the same thing. Oh, and "amazing" is when dogs rescue babies from burning buildings and third-party candidates actually win elections. It is not "amazing" to see people boarding their flight without carry-on luggage.

Whew. I feel better. My one rant, mostly trapped inside of me for a week. Now I'm free!

I'm going to go back to my "doing nothing" mode of business.

And I'd also like to say a brief thank you to people who will be thanked more in-depth later. But you all who have been so kind and concerned for me have really made this whole ordeal a lot less chaotic than it could have been. And that's amazing to me. Seriously.

10 August, 2006

Baby, It's A Gas!

I know that it's probably really self-centered of me to announce an absence from the blogosphere. It's like being at a party and announcing to the room that you are going to the bathroom or off to the buffet. In reality I guess those of you who stop by here and see that I haven't posted will be able to gather that I am not posting. But here I am. I guess the self-centered gene that compells me to write out my thoughts for public dialogue is also compelling me to announce that there will be a few days' lull.

In just over a bit I'm headed to Summit for The Dreaded (Minor Outpatient) Surgery. A bit more tricky than wart removal, a bit less tricky than an appendectomy. Still, it involves a general anesthesia, which freaks me out. Aunt B. mentioned a few days ago that she doesn't respond to anesthesia, and wakes up during procedures. That's always been one of my fears. But I'm good, because I've got the Anesthesia Anxiety covered from both ends. Either I won't be knocked out fully, or I'll never wake up again. One of my favourite guilty-pleasure authors, Olivia Goldsmith, went into a coma from anesthesia and subsequently passed away. The thought of that just freaks me out.

And then there are the horror stories of the people who don't fall asleep and don't have the numbing agents working, but do have the paralytic agents working. So they lay there unable to move or speak to let the doctors know they feel and hear everything. Dear God. That right there is one of the living definitions of hell. And then there are those who wake up in the middle of it all.

Great. Now I'm cheered up. So far I've been under general anesthesia 5 times since I turned 21, all in the last three years. And each time the wierdest thing is the feeling of being THERE one minute and then just slamming into a steel wall of oblivion. Then you wake up with tubes in your nose and some grumpy man in scrubs poking you in the arm and telling you to stay awake. Great, first you want me asleep, and then you want me awake. Make up your minds, medical people.

So, anyway, that's what I'm doing today. And then tomorrow I'll probably be in bed reading a book. Saturday and Sunday I'll be up watching hours and hours of The Wire on HBO OnDemand. None of this will be blogworthy material, I assure you. Well, except for The Wire. Which those of you with Netflix should endeavour to catch from the beginning. It's like a gritty crime novel in TV form--an American version of Prime Suspect. I recommend it, if you can tolerate the very HBOness of it. I swear to you, I've watched all of Season One and sure, didn't they find a way to get at least one nekkid boobie in each episode? They even went so far as to have a closeup of a guy reading a girlie magazine in the one episode that didn't have an excuse for an actual bit of mammarial goodness. I imagine that piece of information will keep all of you away from the show in droves. If there's one thing I've learned about the American culture it's that no one likes to look at naked women here.

Ah well. This is it for me. I'm shutting down the Mac and headed up the road to meet with destiny. Have a good one!

08 August, 2006

Where Is The Memorial?

As Aunt B. mentioned the other day, Oliver Stone has a World Trade Center movie coming out soon. Tomorrow, I think. Doesn't matter to me because I'm not gonna go. You couldn't pay me to see that movie.

But Stone made it because he thinks that we are in danger of forgetting 9/11.

Forgetting. 9/11.

I think I'll pass over the ludicrousness and folly of that statement. But I do want to know one thing.

Why have we forgetton the World Trade Center? Why isn't anything rebuilt yet? They can't even get the memorial off the ground. All the talk in the weeks immediately post 9/11 was about getting new and taller towers up there as fast as possible. There were the towers shaped like a fist giving the finger, the taller towers, the smaller yet prettier towers, etc.

Five years later there's still a hole in the ground.

It's like America. Five years later we still have this gaping hole and all we seem to be able to do is pick pick pick at it. TV movies about the pain. Oprah shows about the pain. Books and History Channel specials and songs and arguments about who hurts worse and who hurts too much and whose made too much money and who hasn't made enough. And now movies in the theatre about the pain. Let's pick at the scab some more and bring Junior Mints along for the fun of it.

And yet five years later there is still a hole in the ground.

Friend Of Israel (?)

This is one of those Abe Simpson posts, where my extra-curmudgeonly side comes out.

Yes, I am a supporter of the nation of Israel. I think they're within their rights to have a geographically defined nation, and in so doing I think they're within their rights of national sovereignty to defend their soil against foreign and domestic agression.

But I was reading Nathan Moore this morning and happened to catch something in his sidebar. I'm betting a lot of people have it in their sidebars as well, because it looks like one of those "put this html code on your site to support X" things. A fidelity branding type of deal.

In this case it is an American flag beside an Israeli flag appearing to morph into each other. (Right now Blogger is being the stink and won't let me upload the image, so I'm using part of my 1000 word allotment to tell you about the picture. If you wanna see it for yourself, hit the link to Nathan's.)

And that image bugs me. Why? Because it seems to be advancing the notion that a lot of people are complaining about. That you can't tell where one nation (the USA) ends and another (Israel) begins. The lines between us are blurred. I don't like that. Yes, I like Israel. But geopolitically there are things that are in their interest but not ours and vice versa. For instance, I don't think mass illegal immigration from Mexico is really much on the minds of the Israelis. Likewise I don't think that every conflict borne by Israel's multimilleneal feud with her cousins is directly our concern.

The image of our flag blurred with Israel's flag is an innocuous web statement to be sure, but it is totemic of a far more dangerous ideal that I would like to see vanish in the wind. America and Israel are friends. America and Israel are allies. But America and Israel are not one nation.

07 August, 2006

Four-Eyes and God

I've spent a lot of time lately wondering why God does things. Or allows things. Or doesn't prevent things. Or whatever. No, I'm not tempted to stop believing in God, although I can see why atheism is a comfort to some. The thought of things happening by random acts of circumstance can be oddly comforting, especially when contrasted with the thought of an all-powerful Somebody who seems at times to be rather capricious in His allpowerfullness.

But, as it happens, I'm God's man through and through, as it were. So instead of covering my eyes and ears to God I just sort of look and say "wha?!?" a lot. It's become rather irksome, some of the things He seems to let slip by--like Lucy and Ethel at the candy conveyer belt.

Then the other day I woke up from a nap. I sleep with my dogs in the bedroom, one on either side of the bed. Our sleeping is a routine, and so is our getting up. They know what clothes I change into when I get out of bed, and wait patiently. And they also always wait by the door and watch for me to put on my glasses. That's the all-clear. Without the glasses it could be a bathroom trip, but once the glasses go on, they know we're leaving the bedroom.

They have no idea what the glasses are or what the glasses are for. The concepts of the things I need the glasses to do are beyond them. Reading? Driving? Looking at a clock? All mundane circumstances to me, mysterious to them. They see me put on the glasses. They know that the glasses are a part of me and affect all my actions. But they don't understand why.

And, seriously, last Thursday when I put my glasses on and looked at my dog looking at me I realised that God was using that insane white fluff ball to attempt to explain something to me. I see Him doing things--things that are the tip of the iceberg, that have a farther-reaching effect than I can even comprehend. So now, with all these life things bugging me of late I've just been telling myself that God is putting on His glasses. And maybe when I leave this room I'll understand more, even if I don't ever get the whole thing down.

04 August, 2006

Candy Apple

He didn't have much growing up. His mother was a doctor but she was the kind who took chickens and old books for payment. So my dad did everything he could to make sure his kids had everything a kid was supposed to have. He made major sacrifices to do that--sacrifices that I'm only aware of now that I'm about the age he was at the time. And yes, that thought freaks me out. The thought that I am now how old my father was when he sent me to Kindergarten. I cry a little bit for the kids I'm not sending to kindergarten now and for the realisation of just how young my wise old father really was when I thought he was so old.

My parents decided against Barbie dolls (too sexist and too expensive to accessorise) but agreed that you got a 10-speed bike when you were 10. With four kids there were always those types of rules. Birthday parties every 5 years; pop for dinner with pizza, lasagne and tacos but water for everything else. So 10 was a big year, because I got the bike AND the big party. I don't remember the big party so well, but I remember shopping for the bike. The only thing I was certain of was that I wanted "blue paint, but the kind with sparkles in it."

"That's called a candy-apple finish" my dad said.

And right then, when I was 9, my dad was my hero. He knew what I meant, and knew there was a name for it. And I knew he'd get it for me. Not the bike, but the colour of the bike. He knew that a candy-apple finish meant a lot to me so he was going to get that colour of a bike if it was the last thing he did. Some guys might think "she's getting a bike. Who cares if it's got red matte paint?" Not my dad.

I just now came across the words "candy-apple red" in a book I'm reading, and I was hard-hit by the feeling of safety and love I got from my dad twenty-six years ago when he knew about candy-apple finish and how important sparkles are to little girls.

Odds and Odders II: Friday Lazy Blogging

Each of these topics could be a full post if I had more ambition to flesh them out. But I also think that they could be boring if they were too fleshed out. So here it is.

1. I have a real problem with cannabalism. For some reason, the thought of humans eating other humans troubles me like nothing else in the world. I can hear tales of incest, murder and any other taboo you've got. They bother me, but nothing like the visceral dread that I feel whenever anyone starts in with the long pig. It's one of the reasons I stay away from seafaring stories and anything that involves being stranded on an island. I only got into Lost when they assured us in some magazine article that there would be no cannibalism.

So of course you can imagine how magnificent my nightmares were on Wednesday night after lunch with this person. He has been reading some book that features cannibalism prominantly. And he told us about it. Right after we had eaten barbecue. And of course I immediately start thinking Fried Green Tomatoes. And just ugh.

And then during my umpteenth viewing of Dress To Kill, Eddie Izzard goes into the whole American-dream-babies-on-spikes thing. Urgh. Cake, please.

2. Jerry Maguire was once one of my favourite movies. I love that tale of redemption. I rewatched my DVD a few days ago. I can't believe it's possible, but Tom Cruise has ruined that film for me in retrospect. For years I could sit through it and just feel the Cameron Crowe love wash over me while I ignored the more japing moments from that psychotic nitwit. Not anymore.

3. I am really loving that new BBC series, Life On Mars. Well, new to America, that is. Yes, it is another police procedural, but they do such a good job with the time-travel twist that it makes for an interesting time.

4. On a related note, I have one request for people in the business of making movies and/or television shows:

Don't get me wrong. I love that song. But I think I've seen it used for scoring on 5 seperate occasions this past week. I would encourage fans of this song to look into "You Better You Bet" or even, dare I say it? "Squeeze Box". There are many many Who songs available for that adrenaline rush. Please check them out.

03 August, 2006

Why Lance Bass' Boyfriend Makes Me Mad

So the biggest non-news at some point last week was that Lance Bass (of NSync) is gay. Fine. Whatever. Although putting out a press release to tell people that is like me putting out a press release to tell people that I like cheese. Both facts are screamingly obvious, and likewise neither fact is news per se. "Hey! Over here we have nations warring. And over there we've got natural disaster. And of course there's always some type of governmental or corporate scandal. Then there's this has-been singer who likes boys. Let's write about that."

But that's not what gets under my skin. The part that irritates me is who his boyfriend is. Reichen Lie^&*%%^$$ul has the distinction of having been on the only season of Amazing Race that I watched. What I remember most about Reichen was his Marriage to Chip. Whenever R&C were on the screen, the kyron proclaimed that they were "Married Couple Chip & Reichen." Several of the voice-overs and camera-face interviews were about how MC:C&R were doing this reality show to prove to both their adversaries on the program and the world at large that gay men could be just as good--nay, better--at marriage than their more vanilla hetero counterparts. I felt kinda beat over the head by Chip & Reichen's Fantastico Marryahj. (As Eddie Izzard would say. Love Eddie Izzard. Watched Dress To Kill again last night and will be asking everyone I meet if they want Cake or Death.)

Anyway. Chip and Reichen. So, they get a "divorce" a few months after winning the misnamed Amazing Race (It is neither, really. It should be called The Mediocre Contest Set in Variously Interesting Locales.). So I guess the message was really that gay celebrity marriage is just like straight celebrity marriage. You spend several months nattering on about how perfect your relationship is and how it is the standard by which all love should be measured. And then you break up. Which irritates the people who had to hear about your Perfect Love and also makes you look a bit cornbread.

So now that I hear that Reichen is in yet another Perfect Love with Lance (*yawn) Bass, I have my cynical hat on my head.

02 August, 2006

I Am Sick Of Mel Gibson's Mugshot

Why is this thing on every website, 100 years later? They can stop now.

Just to clarify, they're still showing it on my Excite! home page. That's what I'm talking about. If you put a Gibson shot on your blog I'm not complaining about you.

But I must say this....Sharon and Fritz, that tree didn't look unhealthy to me in those pictures.

Men, Marriage and the South

Yes, I am married to the perfect man. There's no getting around it. He's not faultless or flawless, but he is perfect in that way that good mates are supposed to be. Supportive? Check. Understanding? Check. Totally hot? Check.

Which leads me to pose two questions that have been bugging me for a long time.

1. Is it a Southern Thing to constantly run your man down in a group of women? When I was a kid that just wasn't done--at least done around me. But now that I'm grown, married and in the South it seems to be the done thing. 90% of the time when I'm with a group of women at work or at church or at a knitting thing the topic of conversation seems to be The Stupidity And Uselessness Of the Men We Married. I generally have little to add to those conversations, but that doesn't stop people. He works too much. He doesn't listen. He never helps out around the house.

We know a woman whose husband-bitching has escalated into full-on man-bashing. She once predictably joked to a room full of people that men were useless. At the very same time the men in the room were organising to help her out with something she needed done around the house while her husband was away for an extended period of time. I think that she is so immersed in the culture of husband-bashing that it didn't even occur to her as irony. So is this something that went on in the married women circles of yankee land or is it truly a Southern thing?

2. Why get married if you AREN'T best friends and you DON'T think highly of the other person? I swear I do not understand this. Obviously there are a lot of marriages that are made for the wrong reasons. I'm probably a bad feminist (for any list of reasons) because I don't think it's bad for women to need men. Men need women, women need men. That's how it works for a majority of people and I don't think admitting need is a sign of weakness. Whether the need is the concrete I-can't-haul-all-that-mulch way or the more ethereal need for a masculine outlook to temper the feminine, it's an honest thing.

But just because there is that core need is no reason to saddle yourself to a limp partner. When will women understand this? Life has a way of working out. If you need a man and don't have a husband there are other men (friends, coworkers, church members, guys in the drama troupe, etc.) who can meet any large number of your man-needs. For everything else there are dogs and batteries. For crying out loud, don't commit to a lifetime of forced togetherness with someone you can barely stand.

01 August, 2006

Voting, Early Voting and Real Life

I've been slowly catching up on blogreads that I missed over the last week and a half. I missed some HUGE stuff. Like Pink Kitty's birthday. Happy birthday, almost a week later. Grrrrr.

In politics it seems like the big thing I missed was everyone hashing out the low turnout for early voting. What Does It All Mean, etc.

Allow me. I have one foot in the grave world of politics and the other foot in the land of people who watch The N on a semi-regular basis. Why didn't anyone vote early, you ask?

Because it's summer time. People have to take their kids to VBS, go to family vacations and spend obscene amounts of time in the grocery store stocking up for long weekends at the lake cottage. They are out on Percy Priest Lake on their boats or at Sonic buying blue coconut Sprite and onion rings. (Sonic dips their o-rings in vanilla soft-serve before battering and frying them, thus creating a groovy taste.)

People do not want to vote right now. Yes, I realise that it is a priviledge, a right of all Americans and the solemn duty of the free. But for most of us out there, voting is a huge errand. It's like going to the eye doctor or the dry cleaners, but with the added frisson of conflict lurking underneath. Would you hope right up to get your teeth cleaned if you were pretty sure that you were in direct opposition to half the people in the waiting room, the hygenist and the people who supply the flouride?

Voting is all of those things, and no one wants to do it early as long as Early falls in the summer.

And that's my theory.

Let's Talk About M. Night

Poor M. Night Shama*&^^%%*. Either people love him way too much (The Sixth Sense) or they just don't understand him at all.

I personally have a huge amount of respect for the guy. He's a unique storyteller trapped in a segment of the artistic community that is overly fond of the bland and the repetitve. I don't think movie industry people know what to do with someone who is just a pure bard--who loves stories for the sake of the tale.

There's a bit of the same reluctance in commercial fiction....M. Night's ink and paper counterpart is probably Greg Iles. Both of these men seem to enjoy crafting good narratives with interesting characters, and they both seem to resist genre repetitiveness. Which hurts them--that is to say it hurts their backers commercially.

I've spent enough time in marketing to know that Branding Is Key and Loyalty Is Hard To Win But Easy To Lose and Blue Is Always On Trend. So if you've got to sell a book or a movie, conventional wisdom would seem to say that you go with what has worked in the past. If The Sixth Sense guy has a new movie, by all means sell that film to the public in just that Golden Arches way. Tell them that this movie is created by the same guy who made that thriller a few years ago. And sell it as a thriller.

That's what the Film Marketing Machine has done to MNS' entire body of work subsequent to The Sixth Sense. And now, finally, with The Lady In The Water, their adulterous attempts have caught up with them. People aren't going to pay gate prices for yet another mis-marketed fiasco. Especially not with the bitter aftertaste of The Breakup fresh in their mouths. Films that are sold as "funny" are actually dark and depressing, and films that are sold as thrillers are actually nice love stories about slightly crazy cult groups in Villages.

So M. Night Shama&%%^( is left with a mis-sold body of work. I imagine that 20 years will put enough distance between the audiences and the marketing teams. Perhaps then his films will be appreciated upon their individual merits.

Greg Iles' publishers and agents finally got wise to marketing him solely as "Greg Iles" and his books as "Greg Iles' Books". So the WWII novels move just as well as the thrillers and the science fiction he turns out. Readers and publishers have come to know and trust the man and his talent. It would be nice if Hollywood would learn that lesson and let moviegoers experience MNS' work the same way.