31 October, 2006

Liveblogging Halloween

5:15 pm: I hang cute ghost earrings from my ears, turn on the porch light and fling open the door. Let the fun commence.

5:20 pm: I live halfway up a hill, three quarters the way to the cul de sac. My house is the only one on the hill with the international "we have candy" symbols of open doors and burning porch lights. I almost feel like going to the mouth of the street with a sign that says Not Worth Your Time.

5:35 pm: I start calling my dog "Case-per the friendly ghost" in an effort to have some Halloween cheer.

5:40 pm: I decide that my dog may be the only trick or treater I see all year. I give him a miniature peanut butter cup from the treat basket. Hey. Don't judge. He's a really big dog, and there's hardly any chocolate on the thing.

5:41 pm: Dog begins vigil by the table holding the treat basket. I begin folding laundry. At least SOME good will come of this waiting.

5:45 pm: Laundry is folded. (I love dark loads. Few socks, lots of pairs of blue jeans.) Dog still holding PBC vigil in earnest.

5:46 pm: My street is as dark as Kleinheider's heart. Seriously, in about six weeks that guy's gonna strap antlers to his little dog's head and go after all our presents.

5:47 pm: This is the boringest live blog ever. Dog still holding vigil. And I ate one of the 100 grand bars. That's 90 calories I won't get back.

6:02 pm: I look like a tool reading immigration blogs while wearing a Winnie The Pooh T-shirt and ghost earrings. I think the dog is going to come downstairs and eat me if I don't give him another miniature peanut butter cup.

6:07 pm: THREE TRICK OR TREATERS! Healthy young lads dressed as skeletons. Or something. I didn't get a good look at them because the dogs took it as their solemn duty to guard me from the dangers of short people with plastic sacks. I gave each brave lad two candy bars as a reward for having climbed the Hill Of No Hope and being barked at by Two Angry Yet Useless dogs.

6:11 pm: I'm about to give up. Where are the flocks of human young that I remember from my childhood Halloweens? Don't people get how social this evening is? How much of a custom we're losing to fear? They say the terrorists did it, but I think part of it we've done to ourselves. We've scared our kids with urban legends about razor blades and brown acid hidden among innocuous gifts of candy. So now instead of the hail-fellow-well-met of Halloweens past we've got this Trunk Or Treat nonsense.

I think I'm a little too morose.

6:20 pm: Ahhhh. That's better. Fresh new meat. Apparently the entire neighbourhood's worth of children decided to T&T in a pack of jovial princesses, pirates, Titans fans and Harry Potters. I've given away half the candy and I have restored my faith in humanity.

6:30 pm: There's been a steady trickle of children, which does my heart glad. As well as my waistline. Being stuck in a house all week with Nestle Crunch Caramel bars would have been disastrous. In between innocent children I'm arguing with Kleinheider about I.Q. in the military. It's kind of like having my brother (the poopy monkeyhead) around.

6:49 pm: I'm ready to give up. I want my soup and toast. I'm tired of hearing the dogs bark. I'm so fickle.

7:03 pm: I think I'm done. No body has come by for 15 minutes. My soup is calling me. Seriously, the golden butternut squash soup is totally restuaurant-worthy. And it's perfect for Halloween.

7:05 pm: After yammering about the Grinch and terrorists and soup I realised that I totally forgot to write the long poignant piece about my dad's birthday. Part of it was forgetfulness--part of it was realising that I've got a bit of a cold and that really cramps my writing style. My dad's birthday is right now. Happy Birthday, Dad.

9:34 pm: Postscript.
My dad got 68% off his meal at the local Mexican restaurant. Three guesses why. I enjoyed my soup and toast. We had no more trick or treaters after 7:00, bringing our grand total to around 20 or so. 20. Is that even enough for a softball team? I think no small part of me is a bit p.o.'d. I'm an adult, and it's my turn to show off my house and be the nice neighbour with the good candy. Thanks for robbing me of that, you selfish Trunk Or Treating kids!!!!

Oh, and if I'm up all night it's because I'm worried about Joe Dubin's neighbour's dog.

Mightiest In The Mightiest

Claudia Nunez screwed up. She came here from El Salvador on a six-month visa, which she then overstayed by four and a half years.

Claudia Nunez screwed up again. She was driving without a license and received a ticket. Like most people who are essentially well-intentioned, she went to pay the ticket. She was promptly jailed for immigration violations, and stands to be deported to El Salvador. Because of current conditions in El Salvador, this amounts to a death sentence much in the vein of Pontius Pilate.

Claudia Nunez will leave behind three legal U.S. residents--her husband and two daughters.

I was supposed to meet Ms. Nunez last night, but was unable to. I understand that Mack is attempting to arrange another meeting with Mrs. Nunez and her attorney for those who are interested.

I do have some questions about Mrs. Nunez' immigrant status, namely why she allowed it to reach this point. I also must go on record as stating that I don't think it is fair for some immigrants to go through all the hoops to be here, while others who fail to follow the required red tape expect amnesty without penalty. If I had my way, immigrants such as Mrs. Nunez would be allowed to stay in the country, but they would have to follow the same red tape as other immigrants. They would also have to pay a fine, similar to IRS penalties levied for late payment of taxes. I believe in three things: Justice, mercy and consequences. That type of solution seems to be the most equitable outcome for all concerned. It allows a woman who has made her life here to keep that life, while at the same time acknowledging that she has violated what is essentially a civil, not criminal, law.

Some other writer once said
[Mercy] is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.

Mercy would allow Mrs. Nunez to be a mother to her children.

Target, You Are Wonderful

Target rocks. Not only do they have a lighted Sea Lion for your lawn that looks like my dog (Light-up Lawn Quinn! $39.99!!!), but this year they've done us Christmas Lights junkies a major service.

They've got a display of every type of light they sell, handily lit for you to prejudge your lights. It makes it so handy to pick which style you want. Better still, it makes the whole seasonal section really festive! Yes, Target truly does rock.

this message brought to you by fans of target. it is in no way paid for or endorsed by Target/Dayton-Hudson Corp.

Dear Early Voters

You people are clogging up my library.

I realise that many of you think of the Hermitage Branch Library as a place on your way to Target and Kroger, nothing more. I realise that you think it's no big deal to fill THE ENTIRE PARKING LOT with your cars. I get that you're cool with lining up to choose from this year's paltry offerings.

But the library is my sanctuary. It's where I go to be among the books. If I were really fond of strangers I'd be hanging out at a bar or a Kroger.

Next vote let's save a few parking spaces close to the building for library patrons only, and let's NOT feel free to stand in the hallway on the way to the polls and talk loudly about politics.

Dear Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Chic, The Dave Clark Five, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes, Patti Smith, The Stooges, Joe Tex and Van Halen.

What's wrong with that list?

Who's missing?

That's right! You left off this man.

Rock and Roll has a few dark poets--Waits, Morrison--worthy of the Hall, but none of them can hold a candle to Zevon. I can understand how you may think a guy with one top ten hit doesn't rate, but there are few who made music that speaks as loudly.

30 October, 2006

All Hallows' Eve Eve

I've had a houseful of guests this weekend, and more fun than I had even hoped. We celebrated Halloween together--details in tomorrow's post.

Until then, in the grand tradition of Network Television, I'm replaying last year's Halloween Episode for your enjoyment.

Partly because I'm half lazy, half tired. And partly because what I said then is still pretty much how I feel about it now.

Blogger Bunco II: Rolling Boogaloo

Women bloggers, you are wanted, needed and desired!

We are having our second Breasted Blogger Bunco night, here at Casa du Kat, on Friday.

I'll have dinner starting at 5:30, and we start rolling at 7:00.

Please come. It's fun.

27 October, 2006

Cui Bono And Quo Vadis

In light of the ongoing Frank Fracas Du Jour (and you're welcome for the hits, Terry), I need to say something.

If we are Christians I firmly believe that our FIRST duty is to the cross of Christ. Jesus' last recorded words on this planet were recorded in Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Church, where are you going? And what good are your actions? Are you first and formost being His witnesses to the ends of this earth?

Bite Me, Terry Frank, You Humongous Bigot

This time I'm calling her a bigot and I'm not apologising.

Because she's written a post that reaches through the internet and slaps me square in the face.

The fullness of marriage is not achieved with the swapping of rings and the symbolic kiss, but rather when the union results in the bearing of a child. ... I don’t believe that marriages must produce a child to be a marriage–but its ability to is its very essence.

Listen here, Terry.

I've got about the most perfectly "Christian" marriage you could find. A preacher's kid and a woman who was born again at 4, baptised at 10, both of whom have half the Bible memorised. We are active in our church and I think that even the non-Christians who know us would gladly step in and tell you that we are Christian people doing our best to live as Christ would have us live.

We are a man and a woman. We took communion at our wedding. We vowed to have a Christ-centered marriage. We're pretty darn perfect as far as your criteria go.

Except for the children. We haven't had any. Not through any choice of our own, of course, but through the working of the very God in whom I believe and you purport to believe. Surgeries and drugs and pain and tears have led us to this place where we accept that God allows crack addicts and wayward highschoolers a blessing He chooses to withhold from us. I spent a lot of years saying "Father, let this cup pass from me" and am now saying "okay fine, your will be done."

But, lady, I am as married as married gets. WE ARE A FAMILY. The very Bible in which I believe and you purport to believe says that marriage is a model for Christ and the Church. (It's all over Ephesians, which is in the New Testament, which is in the back half, in case you're not sure where to find it.) Man is to love his wife enough to die for her. Woman is to love her husband totally and serve him gladly in partnership. It serves as a microcosmic model of Christ's sacrificial relationship with mankind. Nowhere in Ephesians or the Gospels or any other back-half books does God say that a marriage requires children to be a marriage. Children are a blessing but not a necessity.

How dare you, in your crusade to propell a religious institution into the realm of the State, do you then look at my marriage, which is the very essence of that religious institution and call it "not valid"! How dare you decide that you and you alone have got the world figured out.

I hope you quake in shame in front of God at that day when you have to account for your behaviour. I hope on that great day our God looks at you and says "why did you think you were good enough to do my job for me?" And I hope you have enough time to come up with one doozy of an answer.

26 October, 2006

I Am A HUGE Hypocrite.

Brittney has a peeve. And I happen to think she's right, because it's one of my peeves too.

Too often food writers use the phrase "tuck into" to mean eat.

I am a hypocrite because I object to the fey use of Britishisms. And I'm the one who still spells like I work for The Daily Mail. Yes, I love the extra spark that those extraneous "u"s add to colour and favour. And I like the softer look of an "s" in places where Americans will typically put a "z". Prioritise vs. Prioritize. Which one looks more polite? I ask you.

But it stops there.

Unfortunately, I move in a world where a bunch of people are Harry Potter fans, and so they try very hard to talk as if they've grown up on that side of the ocean. And it makes me want to beat them severely. You don't tuck into a meal. You don't ring people on your mow-bye-all. When something is unusually remarkable it is "cool" or "awesome" or "fantastic". It is not "brilliant." If you are sick and require extensive treatment, you place an article in your claim. In other words, we take you to THE hospital, not just "hospital". When you are talking about a friend and you reference his sister you say "he has a sister named Cindy." You do not say "he has a sister called Cindy." Those things on your feet are either sneakers or tennis shoes. They are not trainers. You are either wearing a sweater or a sweatshirt, not a jumper. A torch is a flaming piece of wood, not a flashlight.

25 October, 2006

Your Fat Butt Is Ruining The Environment

So says this new study.
"If a person reduces the weight in their car, either by removing excess baggage, carrying around less weight in their trunk, or yes, even losing weight, they will indeed see a drop in their fuel consumption."

First off, a big screaming Duh! to these guys. Second off, how much federal grant money did it take for them to cook up this nugget of common sense? Third off, how much do those dudes weigh?

Tell me this isn't yet another bit of propaganda in the anti-fat war. Just when I thought "they" couldn't come up with one more reason for me to hate myself, the skimforces cook up this little gem. Okay. We get it. Being fat isn't the best thing for a person. But honestly, do these long drawn out exercises in duh actually accomplish anything other than reemphasising an existing stigma? Not to mention the fact that the actual results of the study show that the increase in fuel consumption is negligible at best.
The lost mileage is pretty small for any single driver. Jacobson said the typical driver - someone who records less than 12,000 miles annually - would use roughly 18 fewer gallons of gas over the course of a year by losing 100 pounds.

This isn't worthy science. This is yet another excuse to scream "get 'em up against the wall" a la Pink Floyd. Who let all of this riff-raff into the world?

I guess we can forget the whole problem of cow farts destroying the ozone. I see a plan here. We all lose weight by eating less meat, so there is less need for farting cows to feed us. Wow! The entire planet has been saved. Of course those of us who are allergic to soy are up a creek I guess.

Then we run into the biodiesel conundrum. Wouldn't that be ironic? We solve the fossil fuel dilemma by discovering that used french fry grease is a viable alternative fuel source just in time to discover that the fat butts we earn through lifelong french fry consumption are complicit in rising fuel consumption.

Do we eat our way to cleaner energy or not? Life, you is a funny mistress.

Me. Only Not Really

I am in love with the My Virtual Model service.

The internet is a wonderful place for all of us who are phobic about dressing rooms. I have a little fake me that I can dress up in real clothes.

How cool is this?!?

Bagels: The Eternal Question

I like sweet bagels. My husband likes savoury bagels.

Why do the bagel-packing people ALWAYS put our two different kinds in the same bag? Do you know how awful it is to get a bite of garlic with your cinnamon crunch bagel?

24 October, 2006

Dear Other Writers: Special P.S. For Sorkin

I consider myself a writer.

I know my life is long stretches of bore, punctuated by the interesting trauma of sickness, job turmoil and cars that won't start. I'm not complaining. If I wanted sex, drugs and rock and roll I'd have joined the French Foreign Legion. But I'm a writer. I like to sit back, watch Interesting happen to other people and write about it. In lieu of it actually happening I'll make something up and call it "fiction". If I were James Frey I could combine the two for a rollicking good time and a spot on Oprah.

But I truly believe that the majority of writers are more like me and less like Hemingway. We don't really crave too much excitement for ourselves.

Which is why so many writers have this overreaching fondness for The Hollywood Blacklist. It's one of the few times in history that being a writer actually had some drama about it. Frankly, I don't consider the Blacklist anything more than an historical artifact. It holds about as much interest for me as the size of Algier Hiss' pumpkin. I know that it existed as part of our society, but I don't view it as the American equivalent of the Holocaust.

I finally made it through this week's Studio ZZZZZZ. Surprise, surprise. The old guy was a hero! For being blacklisted! I'm sorry, but this is like the Twentieth Century Hollywood Writer's equivalent of scoring the touchdown in the big High School game. The character in question had to be at least 80 years old. He fought at Normandy, for crying out loud. But I and the rest of the audience are to believe that the most pivotal part of his life was being fired in the Blacklist?

The worst untruth about the Blacklist Legend is to me the way it is constantly framed as the government beating down the free spirits. As a matter of fact, there would have been no chance at a blacklist had there not been folks willing to name names. By "folks" I mean other actors, writers, directors and such free spirits. It was a purely cannabilistic time that has been twisted by modern mythos to present the face of a bad government versus an innocent and righteous cabal of talented and unique gifts to mankind. We the Average are presumed to have squandered these talents on our altar of conformity. What B.S. It was this very backstabbing and self-serving world that turned in upon its own.

Writers may have been the victims, but writers were also the perpetrators. I wish they'd remember that when they sit around the old Remingtons and toast the magnificence of those bygone days.

I also wish Studio ZZZZZZ would stop thinking that my failure to be part of the Hollywood Scene means that I have no more than a first grade education.

Oh, and one more thing: Writers of the world, here's a shock. There are black people who are successful in life that didn't rise up from the 'hood and just come out of a gang. Sorkin slayed me with this episode. First we see Willy Willz do the prototypical "Black people are different from white people because..." routine. Then we get this speech about how that stereotypical comedy is demeaning to black people. Fast forward to Simon Styles and Matt Albie at the bar. Simon gives a long speech about how he was part of a gang and watched some dude get shot and almost shot another dude yadda yadda the 'hood yadda yadda prison yadda yadda really rich now yadda yadda debt to the community.

WHAT THE H&*^%&^%&^%?!??!?! How is that speech any less degrading to black people? Do black people only come in two flavours? Gangsta and Bling? You know what would have been far better writing, far more interesting and challenging? To have the black character be the one with the bland midwestern background and the brother in Afghanistan. There's some real conflict.

Yes, the life of a writer can be boring. I wish Sorkin would quit trying so hard to sex it up. It rings false.


Opry Mills is a ghost town on Monday afternoon. This is our year to have a low-key (i.e. stay at home) vacation in lieu of the hilarity of Disney World. So yesterday it was off to The Mills Corp. Entertainment Mall Experience for a bit of vacation-away-from-vacation activity. We haven't been there all summer, so the current state of affairs was eye-opening.

Some observations--

~The public restrooms at the Food Court are nas-tee. Out of all the stalls there (I think there are 15) only one of them was flushed. And that door was broken. I went to the bathroom in Barnes & Noble. (Hey, I bought two books there. I paid for clean toilets!)

~It's kind of sad to see Tower Records going out of business.

~Apparently "Jillian's" is now "Dave & Buster's". I have no idea what the other difference is. I imagine neither Dave nor Buster decided to lower prices, so it probably still costs $30 for two people to glow-bowl for an hour. This is not Lebowski's bowling.

~Farethewell, Alabama Restaurant. When we were there yesterday, work crews were pulling the "Alabama" off the wall. I never ate there, so I don't know if I'll miss the food. Apparently I'm not alone in the "never ate there" category, seeing as they're shutting down. I do know that I will not miss the sketches of the band members that hung in the entry way. They seemed cartoonish and a bit amateur--as though they were drawn by a 17-year old relative who has some art talent but very little training.

~The Banditos Mexican restaurant next to Barnes & Noble is not that great. And they got a 67 on the health inspection. I didn't know you could stay open with a 67. Oh well. The food was still okay....not fantastic though. And we had a coupon.

~I love the Stingray Reef experience, but they need to clean the tank. That entire stage area surrounded by B&N, Aquarium Restaurant, Banditos and the Reef smells like urine. Somehow I doubt that drunk uncle/sick cat odor comes from the bookstore.

~The Prestige is an awesome movie. It was smart, entertaining and atmospheric. The perfect fall film.

~The theatre is bragging about showing the original Halloween on halloween. But the print in the trailer looked like catsick. I'm not sure I'd be rushing out to see it blown up to extra graininess.

23 October, 2006

Orphanages In Africa

On the earlier Madonna post, bekah asks a very good question that deserves a good answer.
I honestly don't care whether Madonna "went around the rules" to "buy a child" or not, my problem is with the father making a huge deal out of this - if he didn't want someone to adopt his son, why in the hell was he living in an orphanage?

The child was in an orphanage for the same reason that many AIDS babies are in African orphanageseven though they have living family members.

Orphanages in Africa are not completely analagous to what we think of when we hear "orphanage". In America and Europe an orphanage is simply a place where parentless children are cared for while they await adoption. However in Africa, orphanages more typically serve the function of a day care, drop-in hospital and food centre.

In a culture where the father must work all the time if the mother dies or is very ill, sometimes the only alternative is to place the child in an orphanage. Parents do this, often reluctantly, just to ensure that their children are able to eat. It is far from atypical for a child to be in an orphanage while having quite a large network of extended family living in a nearby village.

I have no doubt that David's father truly believed that Madonna's intentions were exactly the same as what he's come to expect from the orphanage system in his country--someone to look after and feed his child while he's busy working. In short, he thought Madonna was wanting to be a type of nanny.

Spoilers Wanted

I saw the movie, but I could not get into the books.

I understand that the last book in the series has been released.

So, for the love of sanity, if you are a Lemony Snicket fan, please feel free to tell me all the important things (who is Beatrice, what happened to the Baudelaire parents, do all the children survive?) so that I can requite my desire for knowledge without wading through 13 books. In exchange I will tell all of you whether or not Harry dies once Book 7 comes out.

Thank you.

They Ain't The Rubes They Used To Be

Mark Joseph has a new opinion piece over at Fox News that is the very definition of damning with faint praise.

Entitled "For Evangelicals, a Newly Sophisticated Approach to Politics" the rest of the piece continues in the same arrogant, patronising vein. As one of those Newly Sophisticated believers in Christ allow me to humbly point out that I don't think the sophistication is new--outsiders merely have a different perception.

When Evangelicals first burst onto the political scene two decades ago, those outside the camp were of the very mistaken opinion that the only issue motivating these obstinate Jesus Freaks was the legality of abortion. Granted, that's the plank upon which we all came out swinging, yet we were educating ourselves in the ways of the political arena. Most of us came for the abortion but stayed for the guns rights, social justice, states' rights or any one of a dozen other planks in the two main parties' platforms.

Yes. TWO main parties. The myth about us Evangelicals is that we are a sort of Republican Zombie Army, devouring the brains of our children and marching in lockstep to Karl Rove's orders. Not so. Of the Evangelicals I worship with on a weekly basis I would say there's about as much political variety as there is in the world outside our experience. We have yellow dogs for both parties, single-issue voters, centrists and not a few like me who tend to sit outside party lines and pick and choose our candidates with an irritating know-it-all grouchiness.

We've grown older, we mix in the arena more and the rest of the world is finally realising that a belief in Jesus doesn't necessarily require checking your brain and political opinion at the door. Our sophistication isn't new. The outside world's realisation of our personhood is.

22 October, 2006

If This Doesn't Make Your Blood Boil...

I've taken a lot of heat in the past two weeks for being a vocal critic of the Madonna baby purchase adoption. This article does nothing but bolster my opinion that this was nothing more than crass manipulation on Madonna's part.
Banda said his understanding was that "when David grows up he will return back home to his village." He said the director of Child Welfare Services, Penston Kilembe, and the retired pastor who heads the orphanage where David spent most of his life never told him by "adoption" it meant David will cease to be his son. ... Banda said he was illiterate and so had no idea of the significance of the adoption papers he signed in the High Court in the capital, Lilongwe.
"Mr. Kilembe and the pastor explained to me that Madonna would take care of my son; I am just realizing now the meaning of adoption," he said, claiming that he has no copies of documents pertaining to the adoption. "All the documents are with Mr. Kilembe," he said.

How is this different than the slave trade of centuries ago? I mean, other than the fact that there's no sugar cane involved.

21 October, 2006

On Merope & Mayella: The Link Between Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird

Two lonely and lovelorn girls, growing up in squalor--Mayella Ewell and Merope Gaunt are literary sisters in many ways. I have come to believe that Chapter 10 of The Half-Blood Prince is JK Rowling's tribute to Harper Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird.

When we first see Merope Gaunt, she is cowering in her father's kitchen, surrounded by grime and filth. Yet Harry notices that Merope has made an effort to be clean and presentable. I was instantly reminded of Mayella's efforts to keep tidy, and of her struggling red geraniums.

Mayella and Merope have the misfortune of sharing a father. Seperated by magic, an ocean and a couple of decades, Bob Ewell and Marvolo Gaunt are nevertheless the same man. Dirt poor and ill-regarded by their neighbours, Gaunt and Ewell both consider their race and lineage to be their chief source of pride. As long as Bob Ewell is white, in his mind he has character above the black workers who trundle past his tumbledown junkyard house every day. As long as Marvolo Gaunt is a pureblood wizard and a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin he can hold his head above muggles and wizards alike. In both sagas the pervasive racism of these small-minded men becomes the undoing of all those around them and in fact sets in motion all events of each story.

Our heroines also share an obsession, after a fashion. Tom. Mayella's Tom is Tom Robinson, the handsome and gentle-hearted black man she watches through her window every day. Mayella Ewell grows to lust after Tom Robinson, knowing that his very blackness would make him a forbidden lover in her house. Merope's Tom is Tom Riddle, the handsome and hard-hearted Muggle she watches through her window every day. In her world the love for Riddle is the same as Mayella's love for Robinson, yet it's Riddle's non-wizard nature that makes him forbidden to her. Both Mayella and Merope see their love as an escape from the tyranny of drunken and abusive fathers.

Each girl sets her obsession in motion at the absence of her family. Mayella takes "a slap year to save [seven] nickles" to send her younger siblings for ice cream. We are not witnesses to the further action, but the story would seem to prove out the following events. Mayella lures Tom Robinson into the Ewell shack and throws herself at him. Bob Ewell comes upon the scene and beats Mayella fiercely. Due in part to her beating and in part to her shame at being rejected by Tom, Mayella levels the accusation of rape that tears apart Maycomb county and ends the lives of Tom Robinson and Bob Ewell.

In Merope's Little Hangleton hovel events are somewhat inverted but have similar outcomes. Like Bob Ewell--his muggle counterpart--Marvolo Gaunt beats and strangles his daughter upon discovering her obsession with Tom Riddle. Unlike TKAM, the reader is a witness to this beating. I surmise that this is JK Rowling's subtle way of confirming Tom Robinson's version of events and offering Robinson a postmortem exoneration. In HBP, the beating results not in Tom Riddle being falsely accused but in Marvolo Gaunt and his worthless son Morfin going to prison. At first the reader is relieved to see Merope finally have some peace. But just as Mayella couldn't resist seducing her Tom, Merope used her freedom to the same ends. Unlike Mayella, however, Merope has the means to concoct a love potion that enslaves Tom Riddle to her. The child born of this bitter obsession becomes the boy Tom Marvolo Riddle and the man Lord Voldemort, who reigns evil and chaos over both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds.

Two sad, lonely, lovelorn girls. Both seem inconsequential yet both prove the far-flung disastrous outcomes of obsessive love.

20 October, 2006


I have a close personal friend who is on the Optifast program. I've hesitated writing about it here, because I haven't wanted to embarrass my friend.

For the sake of simplicity, let's call my friend "Lola".

Optifast is the rapid-start all-liquid weight loss diet that has been fairly popular for several years. It's the infamous pounds of fat on a wagon plan popularised by Oprah in 1988.

When I first heard about Lola's plans to try the diet I begged her not to. It wasn't that I wanted her to stay heavy. I wanted her to stay healthy. But her doctor (with the help of an increasingly alarmist society) had convinced her she was at the point where weight loss was absolutely necessary for Lola's continued well-being. Several bouts of insurance company negotiations later, Lola was a bit poorer and well on her way through the maze of Optifast.

She is now at the halfway point. And I am at the point where I need to share her experiences with anyone who stumbles across this blog.

-- A patient's daily allotment of shakes and bars totals 960 calories--well below the recommended minimum of 1200 calories. Lola has seen an average loss of 4lbs per week. But after three weeks into it she is suffering from a severly weakened immune system. She has persistant congestion and sore throat combined with ongoing weakness and tiredness. The lack of fibre in the diet means that she also has severe gastorintestinal problems.

--One of my most strenuous objections to the program was that it was dangerous to the patient's health. Lola questioned the Optifast team and was told that the entire program was medically monitored. She is to see a physician once a week as part of the plan. True to their word, they do have her see a doctor weekly. The operative word being "see." There has never been a week that Lola has spent more than five minutes total with the Optifast doctor. At her most recent meeting she had several issues she needed to address, all of them related to the diet itself. The response of her "medical monitor" was that Lola needed to see her family physician about her complaints. Apparently Optifast's idea of "medical monitoring" means that a doctor will review your pulse, blood pressure and temperture on a weekly basis.

--The program also stresses the availability of psychological counselling. In Lola's case that means a once-a-week meeting with a group therapy session. The counselor is not a licensed therapist, and two of her four sessions have been combined with another group. That means there have been as many as thirty people in group session...far too many for adequate psychological treatment. Not that the unlicensed counselor is qualified to offer the promised therapy in the first place.

--The food tastes terrible. Yes, I realise this is a diet. But there is no reason to force people to consume awful tasting concoctions. That will do nothing for behaviour modification, because it only drives the patient to view the diet as a short-term process after which they can resume their regular eating habits.

I know that obesity is a dirty word, and that losing weight can be better for your health. But please consider another diet.

19 October, 2006

Water Is Wet

And TR Knight is gay.

I don't know if I'm supposed to act surprised. Because I'm not. Not at all.

NiT Appears To Be Down

So I'll just blog over here at my own little corner of the world.

Some various thoughts:

Dear Walmart
I love the idea of your bargain generic drug program. You know what would be fantastic? How about including Birth Control Pills in that program? I've recently started taking them as part of a treatment regimen. They're expensive. Sure, to most people $50/month isn't that much. But you know, there are some folks out there to whom that's two weeks worth of groceries. Seems to me that if we want to stem the abortion tide we'd make the whole "not getting pregnant" thing a little bit cheaper.

Dear Ford & Corker
We know all about your mamas and grandmas and tax records and churches. Where do you stand on Proposition One? Any thoughts?

Dear Ed Buckby
I don't know who you are, but have you considered having your own blog? Because your comments over at Tiny Cat Pants are long and hard to read as comments. But they might make for some interesting blog posts.

18 October, 2006

::Snort:: Yeah, Right

One of my widgets is courtesy of changesomething.org and I swear that it's like having my bossy, self-righteous ex-coworker available at the touch of F12. Except the widget doesn't prattle on endlessly about how fantastic it is and what an interesting life it has had compared to mine. That's a relief.

Anyway, the premise of my Change Widget is that it gives me a little piece of advice each day that is supposed to allow me to live a healthier life. Most of it is of the "well, duh" variety (take the stairs instead of the elevator; drink lots of water) but today's was obviously brought to you by the letters H, E, C, K, N, and O.

Wake up. Do 20 situps before you even have time to think about it.

Clearly this person doesn't live in my house. The routine goes like this:

Wake up because your bladder is full. Fervently pray that spouse is either still in bed or completely done in the bathroom. Run to bathroom. Turn on blinding light to scare away any random centipedes. Sit on cold toilet seat. Wince. Open door to demanding dog who is scratching to come lie on the cool tile. Finish bathroom needs. Try to go back to bed for five minutes of rest without stepping on the other dog. Lie in bed worrying about everything that needs done that day.

There is absolutely no point in that whole routine for any subconsious upsitting. And even if there were, between the two dogs, six book piles and last night's clothes, there's no room on the floor.

Skip This If You Are A) Squeamish B) Male C) Both

I hate my new hormonal regimen. For the past 8 weeks my body has been mimicking pregnancy. Except for when it is mimicking menopause. Yay! Big fun! Cramps, hot flashes, peeing every three hours. Breasts that feel like they're filled with concrete and bees.

You know what's funny? This is supposed to make me feel better. And, yes, I do feel better. I'm not in pain. Except for the boobs. I guess it's an okay trade off, but I think maybe I'd rather they find a cure that doesn't involve hot flashes.


Well, I'm up early today!

Actually, I'm up still. I'm beginning to think that in a previous life I was part of a strict monastic order. The kind where they make you get up every three hours to recite prayers. Although now instead of praying I have to pee. I've spent the night like a Duncan Yo-Yo, bouncing forth and back between bed and bath.

I'm tired of this blog template, but I don't have the energy to make a new one. I think I'll leave this up at least through Halloween, to make it look like something I meant to do. Even still, it's so depressing. How much more black could it be? None. None more black.

16 October, 2006

Where Your Author's Fashion Sense Makes For Great Comedy

Yes, I know that the bulk of my stuff this week is over at NiT, but that's a totally different type of writing. I think. Guest-blogging at NiT is more like being the wingman for other bloggers. Which I love doing, truth be told. I like sharing the cool stuff that everyone does with a wider audience. It's fun.

But here I get to still be me. And say things about myself that I probably shouldn't say.

I went on a job interview today for a job I really think I want. I thought I did very well by just being myself and making my shy twin stay inside.

But honestly, I wore pearls. Fake pearls. What is THAT about? I'm sorry, world. I'm just not a fake pearl person. Sure they look okay, and probably are more suited to first impressions than my hammered marcosite trinity knot. Every time I wear any of my Celtic jewelry, someone asks me if I'm a witch. † So you can see how I thought maybe it wouldn't be appropriate for a "please hire me" conversation at a staid company. But fake pearls? Will people start asking me if I'm Barbara Bush? Probably. And I'd deserve it.

The other Stupid Fashion Choice was the wearing of suede pumps in the rain. I clearly lacked all wisdom in my fashion choices.

So here I am, going to this job interview for a job tailor-made for me. I'm so proud of myself for being myself and not being too strange. Yet I'm wearing fake pearls, suede pumps in the rain and paisley. I forgot about the paisley. That's a whole other dimension of oh-no-you-di-int. But what can I say? I'm a jeans and sweater gal who likes funky dramatic jewelry that looks like (and probably was) purchased at the Renn Fair. And I did take those "professional woman" classes in high school, where they tell you how to dress.

Of course, both of the people who interviewed me were in jeans, comfortable tops and wearing trendy jewelry. (Less on the guy than on the gal. But he did have a cool wedding ring.) See what I mean about this job being right up my alley?

And in other news, I got to talk to Casey, who seems to be recovering nicely from the sad demise of poor Blogelo. Nice to see you, Casey!

†No. I'm not a witch. But I do occassionally grow herbs and give other people unsolicited advice, so if I were living in the 1700s, they'd probably burn me anyway.

15 October, 2006

Jazz And Molasses

Jazz season has officially arrived.

Several people seem to be under the impression that Jazz is a summer thing, and I suppose it could be. For me, though, Jazz is always about fall. It's about cool days, cold evenings, the smell of nutmeg and candlelight. Jazz is a spicy lullaby for grown-ups--a music that mellows and warms like mulled wine.

My first Jazz Season was shortly after we moved to Nashville. I didn't care much for Jazz until college, and even then it was a sort of thing that I tolerated if it was on in the background but never a music I sought out. It took the genteel poverty of early marriage combined with the wierd detachment of moving to a strange city to make me relate to Jazz in that personal way that all Jazz lovers have. I think you have to allow the music to become a part of you in order to truly appreciate it.

That fall that I found jazz was one where we had just enough money to make rent, the car payment and eat with the occasional small treat thrown in. I was studying to be a travel agent, which as it turns out is a job not unlike waiting tables in a gourmet restaurant. You get to watch others enjoy life's greatest pleasures while you yourself drink in the misery of hard servitude.

Once a month, usually around pay day (that day when you feel wealthy for twelve hours) we would have a date. Usually our dates involved going to a new part of Nashville and soaking in the atmosphere--which is usually free. One of those dates involved a trip to Tower Records on West End, where they had Duke Ellington's 16 Most Requested Songs on sale for $8. I wanted some new music and had always liked Swing. That entire fall I sat in our small Briley Parkway apartment listening to Ellington and reading Arabian Nights by candlelight while my husband worked nights at a mental hospital for children.

One Monday night when we both had a free evening we decided to adventure out to Bellevue Mall. In the fall of 1991 that mall was populated with elegant stores that had absolutely nothing in our price range. Even the trinkets for sale at the registers cost more than I earned in a day. It was a bittersweet kind of fun, walking through the marble and glass and fantasising about a time when the hard work would pay off and we could do more than window shop. After admiring dozens of stores full of pretty things, my husband surprised me with the nicest treat. We stopped at a cookie store on the second floor where he bought me two molasses cookies. They cost $1.50 that we didn't necessarily have, but it created the nicest, most comfortable feeling. Like edible jazz, they were warm and spicy and sweet. Those cookies were a way of asserting some small statement of ourselves. We may not have been wealthy, but we could enjoy a bright shopping mall and a cozy autumn snack.

It's fifteen years later. Most things have changed. We have money now and Nashville has become home. The Tower Records responsible for igniting my love of jazz has died. The ritzy Bellevue Mall has fallen on hard times. Those stores I couldn't afford have decamped to greener pastures leaving behind a number of shops that, ironically, carry things I could have afforded all those years ago. Most of life has turned inside out, and I'm nowhere near where I thought I'd be at this point in my life. I didn't have kids, move back to Indiana or go to law school.

Funny, though, tonight as I sat in Starbucks with my molasses cookie I listened to the jazz and realised something. I'm not who I thought I would be, but I'm who I was supposed to be all along. And like the jazz and molasses, it's been a spicy, dark, smooth and sweet ride to get here.

13 October, 2006

The News Is Out

I will be guest-blogging at NiT next week. Let's all prepare to have some fun!

I Really Don't Want To Admit This Because My Parents Occasionally Read My Blog

I always played my stereo REALLY LOUDLY as a kid. In fact, I expect my comments section to be filled with various siblings' claims of psychic injury upon being forced to listen to showtunes and ABBA at airplane decibles.

And now, at 36, I'm hard of hearing. It's not so bad that I need a hearing aid (yet), but it's the kind of genteel deafness that gets me into trouble. I've especially noticed it at places like Sunday School and Blogger meet-ups, where people are milling with drinks and talking from my peripheral vision.

Most of the time I have to fake hearing by reading lips. Hence the whole "I can't hear you, I don't have my glasses on" absurdity that I go through with Hubs. When I'm in a group of people, it's virtually impossible to read everyone's lips and so half the time I'm sure I look like I'm ignoring someone. Really, I'm not. I just can't hear you.

The other concession I have to make to my growing elderliness is that 99% of the television I watch has to be closed-captioned. (Sorry, honey.) It's a pain, but after several years I've decided it's less intrusive than asking my poor viewing companions to look me directly in the eye and repeat what the actors just said.

This makes for interesting viewing, because sometimes the captions don't match the spoken words. (I can still hear to a degree.) And now, I've run into a problem with this week's Lost. I thought the character's name was "Benjamin Linus", cheifly because that's what the CC said. But now the official story is that it was "Benjamin Lyons". Boom goes my theory about the character being allegorically named for the mythological son of Apollo left to die on a mountainside.

How unfair for ABC to mislead the handicapped. Differently Abled. Stone Deaf. Whatever you call it.

Friday The 13th

Much to Hubs' chagrin, I tend to be very superstitious. I won't walk under ladders, I always have to knock on wood, and I almost never say never. Except in my world, Friday the 13th has always been a lucky day. I've had unexpected money show up, free lunches provided, extra fun movie dates with my spouse and all that treacly stuff. I love Fridays the 13th. They work well for me.

My bad luck day is, was, and always will be Mondays the 13th. Not only is "13" bad in and of itself, but Mondays always have their own special gruesomeness. So I'm stuck with hating on Mondays numbered 13.

12 October, 2006

Rules of Engagement

I love the blogosphere. I love talking with various people with whom I have fundamental differences of opinion. Discussion is good, and as Malia once said (either in person or on the web--can't remember), we all have learned from each other.

But I'll be honest. I have a lot of stress in my life. Not as much as some people, but enough to keep me awake on the occasional night. And I really don't need to go 'round in endless circles with people who aren't into serious discussion, but instead troll for petty fighting.

I'm sorry, but if you think that my opinions on a television show are grounds for inferring the personality of all Republicans or that calling members of the GOP "ReNAMBLAcans" is cute, witty and fun, then you are being a troll.

I have an opinion on the Jose Padilla/Abdullah al-Muhajir mess, and I may go into it someday over coffee or on this blog. But I certainly will not go into it just to feed the whims of a bored person without cable television.

The Scene

I had written an entire, lengthy post about the Scene's latest anti-blogger sneer, and I was pretty happy with it. But I deleted it. Why? Because, frankly, the back-and-forth between the Scene's J-school flunkies and the bloggers they mock is just old. Nothing new is ever said. They call us navel gazers. We call them pretentious twits who don't get it.

Here's the deal. I never set out to have a blog that would replace The Scene. I only set out to have a place where I could say what I thought about any one of ten dozen topics. Sometimes those topics are covered by the Scene, sometimes they aren't.

As far as I'm concerned, blogs are the new babies of the First Amendment. Blogs do what newspapers did 150 years ago. They give the common person a voice. The irony of the First Amendment is that while it guarantees a person's right to free speech it offers no guarantees about any rights to be listened to. Therein lies the war between blogs and the press. We're fighting over listeners. And it seems that there are many within the press who begrudge us lowly bloggers any audience at all. We haven't earned our audience through the pains of J-school and fancy reporting footwork. But we have people who do listen to us. That I have a bit of speech anyone listens to is a shock and a blessing. I will most likely never have the readership of The Scene for this blog. And that's fine with me.

But I have the comfort of being able to say exactly what I think and have people interact with my ideas on a daily basis.

I also have been able to retain the dignity of humanity. I know that it's not a good idea to insult the people who read me, to mock them and pigeonhole them.

It'd be nice if The Scene would get some of that dignity back. Then again, I personally don't read them that much anymore.

11 October, 2006

Isaiah Washington Does Gandalf Mantooth's Bidding

Who knew that Gandalf was this powerful?

I mean, I get that he's the Best Blogger Who Actually Functions In the Real World, but who knew that "functioning" also meant "having TV stars do [one's] heavy lifting?

I must say, I'm solidly impressed.

Another Job Interview

Thanks to another blogger (!), I have a job interview scheduled for next Monday at 11:00. The job in question sounds eerilie similar to my favourite job of the last 10 years and is for a company I would just kill (not literally) to work for. Please pray or cross fingers or whatever your method of good-wishing is.


Geek Heaven

Political Prediction: Republicans Keep The Congress

I've been seeing a lot of rejoicing in various blogs and other arenas about how fantastically the Democrats will "take back" the majority in the House and Senate. Folks are citing war weariness, page sex and general disgruntlement with the current regime as the basis for their hope.

Jeffraham, Egalia, Sharon, Brittney and the rest of you, I have a bit of news you aren't going to like.

1. The Republicans aren't as ticked off with the Republicans as you'd like them to be.

From what I've seen, most of the rah-rah about the Democrats' chances is echo-chamber stuff. Yes, both sides have echo-chamber factors playing into their analyses, but in this specific case it appears that the Republicans aren't in as much danger as their opposite numbers fervently hope. Yes, there's governmental corruption. Unfortunately there's also a strong economy. That won Clinton a second term, and that's the bottom line. If people are doing okay themselves they are reluctant to see a change in government. No matter how crass the external forces get.

2. The Democrats aren't presenting a clear alternative plan.

Once again, my emails from Howard Dean are telling. Yesterday's encouraged me to take the day off work on November 7 to help with the 50-State Turnout push. The three previous emails from the Democratic party were all about voter turnout. There was absolutely nothing concrete in terms of platform strategy. So it appears that the Democratic party is hinging its strategy on volume alone. That may work, but it won't sway undecideds. And it certainly won't draw disgruntled Republicans in the vast swaths predicted by a lot of pundits. If people are sick of the war they want a candidate who firmly says "I will vote to end the war." Is anyone (up for serious consideration) saying this? No.

3. People view President Bush as the problem.

Most of the disgruntled place the blame squarely at the feet of President Bush. Since he isn't up for re-election, that will have little consequence on the ballot.

I'm sorry, but I think a lot of the rejoicing is misplaced.

Let's Sex It Up (This Post Not For Children)

With this post I'm leapfrogging my own middle-age to turn into my grandmother. I can't help it.

There are just some things I'm really having trouble understanding.

Some brief background: It's Harry Potter Read-Thru Season again, and to that end I'm, well, reading through the Harry Potter series. Yesterday I had a burning desire to see what various artists' conceptions of thestrals were, so I ventured into the world of HP fandom.

I've spent some time in this world over the years, but generally leave it alone now. I can only spend so much time contemplating the larger questions--is Snape evil? Will Harry die?--before it starts to ruin the magic of the books for me. But yesterday, in my quest for fan art I stumbled across something even more disturbing than thoughts of Harry sacrificing himself to rid the world of the last Horcrux.

HP fan fiction.

I've also read (and written) some fan fiction in this lifetime. One summer at camp I spent most of my time carrying around a blue denim three-ring binder wherein I wrote prequels for the Star Wars films. No, I could not be a bigger nerd if I tried. Yes, the story I wrote when I was TEN was better than the three most recent films. Although strangely enough my story also centered around Luke's mother. But all sex (necessary to get to the twins) was off-screen.

Not so with the latest Harry Potter fiction.

That being said, can someone please explain to me ******Skeeviness Warning*********
why people have felt the need to write stories about such uplifiting topics as Harry having sex with the corpse of his dead father? Why there is an illustration of two twin brothers in a sexual position? Why is there more than one story where Ron and Ginny (brother and sister) get it on?

What is the point? What is being accomplished--other than making me sick to my stomach? I get the need for fanfic authors--especially those who are in adolescence--to sexualise familiar characters. It's not my thing but I understand it. I can see hammering out a more detailed look at some of the popular romances in the canon. Harry's parents, Harry and the love of his life, Ginny. I can even see some of the disappointed Harry/Hermione shippers working it out off screen in their own writings. It's therapeutic and creative.

But why with the incest and necrophilia and other seriously disgusting sexual practices? What do the authors of these stories hope to accomplish? What's next? Hogwarts Bukkake? (I shouldn't say that. It's probably already out there.) Maybe I'm just too old to get it. But I prefer my Harry Potter to be the innocent PG-13 world thaat Rowling has nicely laid out for us.
I don't know why everything decent has to be twisted into nastiness.

10 October, 2006

In Other News, I'm Up To $19.90

Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.

What did they pay for? I'm still not quite clear on the value of YouTube. I've watched many videos through the YouTube platform. But somehow I don't think that copyrighted film material or movies of people's dogs wearing Ugg Boots are worth $1.65 billion.

So far, I've made $19.90 on Google AdSense. And I create all my own content. Clearly I need to just come up with something whereby other people either create the content or steal it from someplace else.

And If My Grandmother Had Wheels She'd Be A Wagon

Today is World Day Against The Death Penalty. And apparently, as the argument goes, we should be so eager to fit in with The Cool Countries that we should get rid of our own backwards death penalty.
Let's remember, the U.S. is the only Western democracy that uses the death penalty. If we were a European country, we would not be allowed to join the European Union because of our country's violations of human rights (aka our use of the death penalty).

Fine reasoning, TCASK blogger! Although I might add that if we were a European country there would likely be no European Union, as there would have been no "us" to come late to the party that was WWII. While I think it's fine that those folks (who turned a blind eye to summary executions for a long time) have decided that the death penalty is a violation of human rights, they don't live here. The fact that the E.U. idea of rights is a little bit more dictatorial than what we like over here should be taken into account. Check out, especially, the E.U. stance on "free" trade.

Of course, a lot of people, my favorite Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia included, will say that other countries don't get to write America's laws.

You're catching on!

But I wonder how legitimate our calls for respect for human rights around the world sound to people in England or Germany where they consider the use of the death penalty a human rights violation.

Yes, this is quite clearly the first time we will have a difference of opinion with England and Germany about what exactly constitutes human rights. I'm less concerned about the opinions of England and Germany in this type of situation. Neither nation is faced with the exact same catalogue of issues as the United States. And while we're at it, I'm quite concerned about the vast scope of privacy violations in England. But I can't go over and tell them to take down their vast network of municiple cameras.

My main complaint with the discussion of the death penalty is that opponants of the United States' Death Penalty frame it as a "human rights violation." It is not a violation. In order for the death penalty to be a violation of human rights, it would have to be imposed not as a penalty but as a summary execution. Shooting people in the head because of their race or religion or regional overpopulation is a summary execution.

In the United States the Death Penalty is imposed only after conviction of a worthy offense. It is more correctly termed a "human rights relinquishment". Every citizen of the United States is granted the Human Rights protection of the Constitution and the various state governments. But if you violate that contract, you relinquish your rights.

Other countries lack the free association protections of our constitution, and therefore do not require the death penalty. That's their business. Our business is our own.

If you wish to fight the Death Penalty from within the system, I wish you all the best. I think that's a fine idea. But don't think that "World Anti-Death Penalty" day and other such lemming arguments hold much sway.

09 October, 2006

Half-Assed Sunday School

There's this guy in my Sunday School class that I really appreciate. He grew up Catholic, and often brings a fresh perspective to our very Baptist way of doing things. Yesterday was one of the days where Chuck did it again. He unintentionally performed the greatest object lesson our Sunday School could ever have had.

You will likely be hearing a lot about my church in the coming weeks because we are, quite honestly, becoming something different. We're still God's church, but we are striving to achieve a new level of relationship with the communities surrounding our building. We are striving to be servants to the world where God has placed us. Hopefully Nashville will come to know us by our fruits.

I say all of this to say that yesterday's Sunday School class (not taught by me, thankfully) was about how we should build bridges to the community. We talked about how we had things to bring to the community and how the community had things to bring to us. And we also talked about the murky waters we had to transverse with the bridge. There was a whole list of things, including prejudice.

And during that discussion, Chuck said that we had to avoid 'scope-creep' or we would end up doing a half-assed job.

The entire room squirmed. Except me. I loved it. Because right there was a living example of what we were talking about. Here is a man from a different cultural background using a phrase that seems crude (but actually isn't) to discuss a real issue. And I thought to myself "if we get this upset about some guy saying "ass", then how on earth will we be prepared to welcome all of these new people we're going to be reaching? What happens when new Christians come to church and bring their culture--or lack of "church" culture--with them?

You know, it's a really interesting discussion to have. Especially for a person like me who doesn't believe that seeker-driven churches are appropriate. So where is the line? How do you say that some things are essential (Baptism) and some things are cultural (wearing fancy clothes)? How do you then say that you can relax on the culture without sacrificing the essential?

How do you do all of this without making it look half-assed?

This Ain't No Disco

CBGB is dead. I never saw a show there, but Hubs' favourite college band (the now-defunct AshCan Van Gogh out of Detroit) played there on what I'm told was a memorable night. Many of my favourite bands (Blondie, The Ramones) got their start there. In a world of glitz, glamour and high drama, CBGB was always about the music. You could only play there if you played your own stuff. No covers allowed.

But now in the aughts, the rough and tumble rock club has fallen to the same fate as Vandyland here in Nashville. The landlords want the club out, the lease is up and that's all she wrote. CBGB is no more. The part of me that loves history mourns the loss. The part of me that loves progress understands why.

What I don't understand is the punk palace's second chapter. Get this:
Kristal plans to move the club far from its roots with a new CBGB's in Las Vegas. The owner plans to strip the current club down to the bare walls, bringing as much of it to Nevada as possible. ... "I always said Hilly should go to Vegas," said McNeil. "Girls with augmented breasts playing Joey Ramone slot machines. It would become an institution."

Huh? Are they serious? Apparently so. It would seem that the best way to memorialise rock history is with the very glitz and plastic that the club eschewed. On one level I get that this is Rock and Roll, and is never far from flashtrash glamour. But on another level, CBGB was always about the music. Oh well. I suppose that's just another side effect of life during wartime.

08 October, 2006

Reconsidering the "Necessity" of Guns

That's something this weekends NiT Guest Blogger Trashley would like us to do.

To take a leaf from someone else's book:

People of the Left, I need you to explain something to me.

Many of you rail for day upon day about how the Bush administration is evil and corrupt. You insist that the government is creeping into fascism. You point to things like the suspension of Habeas Corpus as pure violations of civil rights. You are reeling about the torture bill.

And yet you still don't understand why we have that second amendment? You still don't get why there are those of us who think that the right to fight back against a corrupt state should be preserved above all else?

How can you look at all of the many missteps made by your government and not want to desperately cling to the security of a free state?

You want the right to abort fetuses because a woman's body is her own. Yet what happens when a government decides that no one has a right to their own body? How do you fight them off armed only with leaflets and good intentions?

Please tell me how you can look at a government that many of you have long ago decided is beyond redemption and still think that the right to own guns is not a necessity?

06 October, 2006

The Lords Of Coble

Do you ever have those dreams where you are at your workplace, but all of the other employees are people who were in your high school class? Or you're at the doctor, but the actual doctor is really one of those guys from the Hughes & Coleman commercials?

If you share these types of experiences with me, then you have a pretty good idea of what tonight's premiere of Battlestar Galactica was like. I knew all the characters (except Jammer), but they were in strange situations behaving strangely. And I'm not so sure I liked it all that much. There's Kara, in her new environs and her snappy extensions looking less figher-pilot, more geisha. There's Lee, still in space but fat and sloppy. The only character behaving remotely like I expected was Ellen Tigh. And I hate Ellen Tigh.

BSG until this point has done a very good job of telling a strong narrative while maintaining the episode-to-episode quality. I'm trusting them to keep up with their track record as far as the narrative goes, but I'm nervous after tonight's double bill. I presume that these two hours are laying groundwork for the more action-driven episodes later in the season. Or at least that's my most fervant hope. Because I can't take much more of these shouts-out to plotlines better done on Babylon 5.

Nightwatch? Check. We have the New Caprica Police. Hard character compromised by the loss of an eye? Check. We have Saul Tigh. If Zathras shows up, I'm done.

Worse than the shouts-out are the underlying currents of sermonising. Did you ever have one of those television-watching experiences where you felt as though someone was always walking in the background holding up a big sign reading This Is A Metaphor, followed immediately by someone else with a sign reading This Is An Allegory? Because that was the other part of tonight's BSG that left my FTL drive in disrepair. I get that the whole show is supposed to be a commentary on the Iraq war. Heretofore they've been able to pull off the commentary with a minimum of anvils. But starting tonight I felt that these were all-too-obvious displays of the writers' desires to comment on the world situation. Baltar's conversation with Roslin in detention was a particular example of this. All the talk of insurgents, suspension of habeas corpus and torture made me feel less like I was watching one of my favourite TV shows and more like I'd downloaded a chat transcript from AlterNet.

So now to the part where I say that I'm a die-hard fan and will keep watching no matter what. If I don't, certain parties will have my head. Yes, I will keep watching. I just hope that while I do watch they sometime decide to again entertain me.

UPDATE. Frak. It just occured to me right now. The Cylons are Zathras. Bugger.

The Culture Of Christ

Courtesy of Trashley (via NiT) I've learned of a new film coming out called Jesus Camp.

A growing number of Evangelical Christians believe there is a revival underway in America whereby Christian youth must take up the leadership of the conservative Christian movement. ... The film follows these children at camp as they hone their prophetic gifts and are schooled in how to take back America for Christ. The film is a first-ever look into an intense training ground that recruits born-again Christian children to become an active part of America's political future.

I had a lot to say, but most of it was already said fairly well by this man.

I do think, however, it is important to realise that many things within the Christian culture that are not exactly how they sound. I grew up singing The Lord's Army in Children's Church. Partially because it's one of those action-songs that wears the little kids out, and partially to communicate to our childbrains that even though we are not marching in the infantry or flying bombing missions we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Granted, there are some splinter groups that think an outgrowth of spiritual warfare is to engage in physical warfare. I don't hold to this view, and neither do the overwhelming majority of Christians.

I think movies like Jesus Camp are valuable, as long as they are in proper context. It's good to see some of the various ways people believe. But I am SO not looking forward to the endless reams of people who will hold up the exceptions of Jesus Camp to prove some sort of rule within their head.

Kleinheider Calls For Revolution

Subtly, but it's there.

Let's Gossip About Meredith For A Minute

There's all sorts of ugliness happening right now. But it's Friday and the part of me that wants to bathe my soul after a sick week just really wants to think about something besides dead children and the dying integrity of leaders.

Let's talk about Meredith Gray. I know there are those of you out there who think that the show is insipid, juvenile and pointless. You are right. It's a show where they hold prom in a hospital and the doctors spend more time chatting each other up than actually being doctors.

I think that's why we who love it love it. Because the show subtly points out that what is important in life is NOT what you do for a living but who you are. The women who love the show are housewives, secretaries, middle managers, sales associates and doers of any number of other jobs out there that lack glamour and gravitas. For years we've been sticking to the idea that who we are and the relationships we build with our children, parents and friends are at least as important as running a corporation. We're stuck in the postfeminist world that in many ways has left us with the feeling that unless we are at the top we are nothing. I remember a feminist lecture I attended in 7th grade. The lecturer, an archaeologist, was giving us examples of good and bad careers for feminists. Don't be a nurse, be a doctor. Don't be a teacher, be a lawyer. That sort of thing. Funny...she never said "don't be happy." But that came across. We were to sacrifice our internal peace for the good of Women's Causes. Ever the rebel I'm a housewife who works as a secretary. And a writer. No one ever mentions writers either way. Probably because it's such a shameful thing to be. Being a writer is like admitting you have poor personal hygeine.

Anyway, back to Meredith. If you've made it this far and haven't yet watched the episodes from this season, I encourage you to stop reading. I don't want to give anything away.

Last night I was watching with Hubs, who takes the bullet as part of our relationship. Poor man is married to a schizoid TV watcher who forces him to watch both Grey's and The Wire. ( I do draw the line at Nip/Tuck, though. ) One of my favourite things about Hubs is that he does say what's on my mind. A lot. And last night, as we were watching Meredith in bed with two men he said
You know, I think I'd like this show 100% better if they'd get rid of all the stuff about her.

You know they won't do that because the show is called Grey's Anatomy and she's Meredith Gray. But for crying out loud could they at least tone down her selfishness a little bit?!? She has a knack of turning everything into being about her. So does Christina.
That's why I was actually much happier by the end of the show last night. Because it seems like through Izzy the other characters may be learning something about thinking outward. I hope. If not, I'm going to be rooting for another bomb incident.

05 October, 2006

And One Other Thing: The No Delete Madonna Rant, Part Two

I just remembered the other thing I wanted to whine about in regards to that Madonna article.

Madonna, a devout practitioner of Kabbalah, unveiled her plans for Malawi in an interview in August with Time magazine. She said she wants to raise at least $3 million for programs to support AIDS orphans.

Never mind that Kabbalah, as a branch of Judaism, believes that charitable works should be kept secret. Never mind that anyone who holds a press conference to announce their good works is both desperate for attention and perhaps a little bit nuts.

The problem is that it's so phony. Madonna "wants to raise at least $3 million" for her new charity. Do you know what that means?

It means Madonna wants tons of people like you and me to send our tens and twenties to her charity.

I have this real gripe against people whose net worth hangs around the $700 million mark thinking they're hot butter for cajoling other people to donate to a charity.

Warning: No-Delete Post Follows Topic: Adoption

It's late and I'm tired so I'm just posting whatever comes to my head and not hitting the delete button. So please forgive me if I say something that just makes your blood boil. Or don't forgive me. Either way.

First question is a biggie. When did orphans from foreign countries become the latest hip accessory? Tim and I, for reasons of our own, have decided not to adopt so I realise that I'm sitting in the cheap seats on this one. But honestly, these people (mostly celebrities but a few regular folks too) keep swooping down on China and Subsaharan African nations to pick up their new purse trendy baby.

A few weeks ago we had an older woman friend tell us of a friend of hers who adopted a child from somewhere that had black babies. I can't remember the country. I just remember the fact that the baby was black because that's exactly how our friend told us the anecdote. "They just decided that they wanted a little black girl." Me: "Was that their favourite flavour?" See, that was my cynical response, but it seemed to fly over our friend's head. Look, I have no gripe with people who adopt. I know scores of people who adopt and scores of people who ARE adopted and it's all cool. But as far as I'm concerned you adopt a baby because you feel called to be a parent and you believe strongly that adoption is an avenue for you to do that. That's when adopting is cool. But when you start getting all up in picking out children the way you pick out cars or puppies you seem to me to have stopped wanting to be a parent and started wanting to be accessorised. The thing that's so bad about all of this is that these children in these various places really DO need homes. So I feel like Queen Bitchface for even saying one thing about it. Like I said, I'm in the cheap seats here. I'm not getting my passport ready to go pick up an AIDS baby.

People have been after me and Tim to adopt for over ten years now. Usually the minute someone finds out that we don't have children they ask us when and if we are going to adopt. Of course, no one would ever think to ask us other equally personal questions like how often we have sex, how much we weigh, if we like to be spanked or if we have ever considered anal sex. There are a dozen reasons we have not pursued adoption yet. That doesn't mean we have anything against the concept or are not thrilled for our friends who thoughtfully and prayerfully adopt after feeling the call to be parents. And that doesn't mean that if God changes His mind and asks us to adopt that we won't do it. But who we are right now and where we are with our lives means that we are not looking to adopt right now.

And I say all that to say that I think adoption is a hard and personal choice and when I see people like Madonna swooping in to scope out an orphanage as though she were looking at sofas it makes my skin crawl. And when I hear people say things like "I think Chinese babies are the keeyoootist things!!! I just want to adopt a little Chinese baby" it strikes me that we've reached a place as a society that is almost too twisted for words. Babies may be cute but they are not THINGS. They are people.

Repeat after me: Adoption is not about getting a baby. Adoption is about crafting a person. Over a lifetime. And it's not about you. It's about the child.

A special note needs to be added here to my mother and some other people with whom I've had serious conversations about adoption in the past couple of weeks. This stuff here is not at all directed at you guys or in any way inspired by our conversations. This post is inspired by Madonna, a woman I used to work with, an unnamed family member who doesn't read my blog and the graphic artist I know who turned down a Guatamalen girl because when they went to Guatamala to pick up the baby they had been working 8 months to adopt they saw that older children in that country had darker skin than they were willing to accept. These various people are the bad examples. You all are not in that category. And I know you all well enough that if you were I'd say something outright to you.

I know that I started by saying that I had a "first question" which implies a second question. But now that I'm at the end of my tirade I realise I don't have a second question worthy of mentioning. Unless "Does anyone know what Steven King Book they were reading on Lost?" counts.

04 October, 2006

My Relationship With Nip/Tuck

I have this really good friend who is very into Nip/Tuck, and she has invited me to their weekly viewing parties. However, I'd never seen the show, so I had to get caught up. I did this by renting the back episodes on Netflix and tivo'ing current episodes.

Yesterday I watched the first three episodes and then the "Shari Noble" story that ran last week.


There are not words for how completely sicked out I was by the Melissa Gilbert storyline from last week. I seriously threw up after watching it. It involved a woman having sex with a dog. Can I just tell you that I think that is the most horrible thing? Maybe it's because I have two dogs. I know how innocent and trusting they are, and it seems like molesting them is the biggest betrayal of that trust.

And yes, I'm taking a silly TV show too seriously. But still. Ewwww. Gross.

And yes, Holland, if you read this, I will still be joining your group. But can we please not re-watch the Melissa Gilbert story. Please?

It's Crazy Uncle Day!

The Top News Stories section of my Excite Homepage this morning reads like a week's worth of Oprah programming. Mark Foley claims a priest molested him. EvilCrazy Pennsylvania Gunman claims that he--while a child himself--had been involved in molestation acts.

Of course, Foley's attorney says
"Mark does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate" e-mails and instant messages, Roth said. "He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct."

Uh-huh. Sure. Because everyone who has ever been molested is in the habit of calling press conferences at random moments and announcing the most painful fact of their childhood for no reason. Nice work, Attorney. Especially with the crafting of that sentence. "As a child my client was horribly afflicted by a severe trauma at the hands of some Catholic Priest--you know how THOSE PEOPLE are--but that has no bearing on him sending a few emails to some 17-year-old boys he didn't even touch." It sends several messages.

1. Foley had it worse than the pages, at the hand of a recognised enemy. (Man, the poor Catholic Church. Why are they the Nazis of the aughts?)

2. These emails are not as big a deal as the actual physical act of pederasty.

3. I'm not supposed to write what I'm going to write as soon as I'm done with this sentence.

But you know me, so I am gonna write it. I don't do the Open Letters To Whomever as well as Auntie, and I surely don't wish to encroach upon her territory. But I sure wish that the evil freaks of the world would understand something. I'm about Oprahed out. I don't really care if you grew up in some backwoods cabin on the edge of a swamp where some snake-handling stepfather forced you to skin squirrels as a baby and used you as his plaything. Or that your daddy was an emotionally remote day-trader who never said he loved you. Or that your first grade teacher humiliated you for not being able to tie your shoes.

You are a grown-up person. You are responsible for the choices and actions you make. This world is full of grown-up people. Many of whom have things in their past that would curl your hair, turn it gray and make it fall out of your head. Yet we are all out here getting past it. Some of us are in therapy. Some of us drink a lot of coffee or liquor. Some of us eat too much ice cream. Some of us jog. One way or another a great majority of the wounded souls of this universe have found a way to move past their bad pasts without finding the need for cruelty to others.

Don't get me wrong. I have deep compassion for what happened to you. I think it's wrong. But in the words of some wise teacher "It's our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." I happen to believe that. I happen to believe that when you make the choice to do evil you alone are responsible for that choice. And you should be held accountable.

So if you're out there and you're crazy and you decide to shoot up a roomful of people or drive a car full of your babies into a lake or talk to young boys about their penises then just know that I don't want to hear one word about priests or uncles or stepfathers or whathaveyou. It was your choice to make. You made it. Congratulations. YOU are now officially the Sick Bastard of this generation.

03 October, 2006

What Was I Thinking?

This is one of those posts that people admit to hating. One of those posts where I as the author admit that I have nothing to say.

I just needed to have a new post on top because every time I clicked through to my blog I was faced with that horrible clown.

I realise that I have a passion for graphic illustrations, but that really carried it a bit too far. Excuse me. I think I need to lie down.

Somewhere Between Jack-In-The-Box and Iron Maiden

I am deathly terrified of clowns. It makes no difference if the clown is leeringly horrific a la Pennywise or seemingly innocuous a la Ronald McDonald. To me clowns represent stark terror and I absolutely cannot stand them. This would, of course, mean that going to the circus--something most people seem to enjoy--would literally be torture for me.

And there's part of the problem when we debate the now-infamous torture bill. One fellow's torture is another fellow's circus. Some people look at the various types of torture in question and claim it's "not so bad." Glen Dean is not alone when he claims that it sounds no worse than his fraternity pledge week. Of course you never know. Waterboarding could be some guy's weekend thrill.

I've remained silent on torture because I'm in the unfortunate position of realising that it is a reality so far removed from my work-at-home-with-two-puppies-at-my-feet world that I cannot even fathom what those lives are like. And I also feel this tacit understanding that I owe my comfortable life (at least in part) to people who are trained to torture, have tortured and in some cases have been tortured. They are Orwell's rough men standing ready who guard the peace of my sleep. I cannot make light of that with easily-made pronouncements shot like rubber bands from behind the safe wall they put in place.

The thing is, I think that torture is wrong in the same way that killing is wrong. Yesterday, a conversation about the death of Glen's dog turned into a lambasting of Glen as a person, purely because of his writings on the torture bill. One well-meaning but misunderstanding person said Glen and all torturers should be shunned. Of course ignoring the ultimate irony that shunning is itself an internationally recognised form of torture. There was deep truth in her statement, however. On the inside of nearly every human being is a line. And in the human mind when that line is crossed a form of torture is justified. Few admit it to themselves but it's easy to see when you juxtapose the BoySex Congressman story with the torture one. I've seen more than a few people claim that child molesters should be castrated--many of whom have vocally decried the "torture bill". Molesting children is a torture-line for many folks.

In that same conversation someone asked me how we should handle torture and those who torture. I still have no firm answer because as I said earlier I cannot speak firmly to a world so removed from mine. The mores of my world say that torture is wrong. But the mores of the world where torture is a life-saving reality call my comfort into question.

In my world I only know one response to torture that makes sense. There's a story about a man being put through the paces of the worst possible torture devised by man. Partially skinned alive, with acid thrown in his open wounds and forced to pace with weights strapped to his body for hours in the hot sun he didn't break. Until he said "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." Compassion in the face of reality. That's the only response that makes sense.

Photo Credit: Chirpy.co.uk

02 October, 2006

And They Wonder How I Can Be Mennonite AND Pro-Gun

I harboured a secret desire to go to Goshen College, but one visit there taught me that my pro-gun ways were not going to make four years there very comfortable. Since then I've always stuck to my "yes, I am a Peace Church Believer, but I also believe in guns" way of thinking.

This kind of thing is exactly why.

I should probably go re-read Friendly Persuasion.

America: Land Of The Idiots

In the midst of blogging and shouting and bumper stickers, we are often left with the impression that America is no longer home to the types of minds that thought of the polio vaccine and the space program. (Even though much of the space program's early brainpower was imported from Germany.)

Test scores are lower and no child is left behind, even when they don't learn anything.

But occassionally, quietly and in the background, there are Americans who are doing great things.

Two of them just won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Americans Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for discovering a powerful way to turn off the effect of specific genes, opening a potential new avenue for fighting diseases as diverse as cancer and AIDS.
The process, called RNA interference, also is being studied for treating such conditions as hepatitis virus infection and heart disease. It is already widely used in basic science as a method to study the function of genes.

Hope maybe quiet, but it's out there.

Hating The Rich

The solidly respectable Roger Abramson had a post at the end of last week wherein he claims that most people don't hate the rich, but instead admire their accomplishments.

I cannot speak for most people. I can only truly speak for me. And while I am not hating the rich per se, I'm finding myself to have less and less use for their shenanigans. Like this for instance. Homes priced in excess of $100 million. Homes with 24 Karat gold-plated fixtures in the loo. Why is this necessary?

My relationship with The Rich has had its ups and downs. I started out like Roger, admiring their accomplishments and pondering what it would take for me to join their ranks. Then I went to work for a rich man. I found out that one of the ways some people get and stay rich is by not paying enough money to their employees. I also found out that another way some people get and stay rich is by lying and cheating and stealing. I'm sure there are many wealthy people who have risen from the dirt of poverty to the ranks of the monied without chiselling, bootlegging or throwing people out of their homes to build ridiculously expensive office high-rises. I was going to say "Steve Jobs and Bill Gates", but then I remembered the nice folks at PARC Xerox who saw their work on GUI spirited away by the two eager beavers. See? Stealing. That's another way to get rich.

I think there's a reason Jesus said it's easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. It seems that Jesus--you know, Mr. if-you-have-two-coats-give-one-to-someone-in-need--realised that great wealth often comes from great misdeeds. Of course, my sins are just as numerous so admittedly I should quit worrying about their splinters and concentrate on my own huge and gaping flaws. And I will.

But I still find myself wondering why on earth a $100 million home is necessary. Yes, a man's reach should exceed his grasp. And that's part of what worries me. Because if someone's grasp includes such a house it would seem that his reach could be dangerously destructive.