31 January, 2007

For Crying Out Loud, Get Renters' Insurance!!

There was an apartment fire in a complex about half a mile from my house last night. 10 families were burned out of their homes, and according to the Red Cross none of them have renters' insurance.

At the risk of looking like I'm blaming the victim I have to implore all apartment dwellers everywhere to get renters' insurance. For no more than the cost of a delivered pizza each month you can have the peace of mind of knowing that if your idiot neighbor in 12-B uses a space heater with frayed wiring you yourself will not be destitute.

I lived in an apartment for 9 years. I know that sometimes that $10-$20 a month can be hard to find, but I promise you'll sleep better knowing you've got it.

And no, I don't work for an insurance company.

I'm Not Black & I'm Not Gay

There is probably no reason for me to have any sort of opinion on the whole Isaiah Washington thing. I've really tried to avoid having an opinion--other than "Look! Celebrity Gossip!"--because it's not something I'm necessarily qualified to talk about. I have no firsthand knowledge of the pain of being black or gay.

But, man, apparently we're ALL supposed to have an opinion, and that opinion had just better be the Right One. Imagine my surprise to open my Entertainment Weekly, only to have them devote their entire back page column to the "issue". Granted, since the first of the year that back page space has become EW's "blog-in-print", with different writers contributing blogworthy entries either funny or screedy. So I shouldn't be too surprised by the screedy from editor at large Mark Harris, who seems to think that Washington's use of the f-epithet is a watershed moment in the politics of Gay Hollywood. Excuse me if I disagree. I think that namecalling is childish, immature and rude. Which is exactly the type of behaviour one would expect from people who choose to pretend to be other people for a living.

Let's look at part of what Harris has to say, shall we?
I'm sorry that the first time this happened, Shonda Rhimes, whose commitment to on-air diversity is evident (even if the evidence stops short of including an actual gay staffer at Seattle Grace), thought it was okay to write this off as a private affair rather than immediately let the many offended fans of her show know how hateful she thought that epithet was.

No, there's not an openly gay doctor (yet) on the staff of Seattle Grace. But this indictment of the show's lack of gayversity is hardly a fair assesment. In the pilot episode Rhimes and her writers treat a presumption of George's gayness (the actor is gay, the character isn't) as a no-big-deal aside. Joe, the bartender at the Emerald City Bar is openly gay, and we've seen at least three episodes with him and his partner. He's not a main character, but he is as strong a secondary character as Meredith's parents, Denny Duquette and Callie Torres.

As far as Rhimes scolding Washington in public, I would have followed the same tack. Yes, name-calling is offensive. But it was a private moment behind the scenes on the show that leaked out. I imagine Rhimes' first thought was to try to keep the thing in-house as much as possible.

I'm sorry that T.R. Knight, the target of Washington's slur who came out following the incident, didn't have the instant, unqualified, and loudly public (because that matters) support of every one of his colleagues.

Again, I think Rhimes was trying to keep this in-house and deal with it discreetly. Who knows what transpired between cast members? Of course, now that this is the official Issue That Will Not Die, other cast members are rallying around Knight.

'm sorry that the overall non-reaction to Washington's behavior helped to reinforce a perception that some quarters of the African-American community tolerate homophobia, a stereotype that is only going to divide us more unless both groups fight it at every turn.

How stereotypical is it of Harris (an openly gay man) to broaden the responsibility for Washington's actions onto The Black Community at large? Honestly, Isaiah Washington is one man. He is NOT The Voice Of All Black Men Everywhere. Frankly, to me Harris' statement here is far more 'us-v-them' than anything coming out of the Rhimes-Washington camp. In fact, I'd wager that many white, straight readers have no idea about the grudge match between the Gays and the Blacks that prominent gays have been pushing for awhile now. Okay, prominent blacks, too, if you count Oprah. She keeps doing shows about The Down Low, albeit from a YOUR BLACK HUSBAND MAY BE GAY!!!! scare-quote stance.

I'm sorry that it took ABC half the TV season to remind itself of its corporate responsibility.

Wha?? You want the network of Big Brother Two and A Half Men to be corporately responsible? Aren't you cute?!?!

**What is my problem? Why do I think all of CBS' stupid shows are on ABC? Good grief. Both networks appear to have a problem with branding. Anyway, I DO hold ABC responsible for the stupidity of cancelling Invasion, so there.

I'm sorry that not a single sponsor of Grey's Anatomy had the guts to speak up, even last week.

I imagine that, like me, these people just want the whole issue to be handled quietly and with decorum. Most corporations are culturally different from entertainment magazines. They exist to make cars and trucks and soaps and frozen dinners that they intend to sell to lots and lots of people. They aren't bound to get in high lather over actors (whom many people consider to be an odd breed anyway) acting like doofi. I really don't see anyone at Ford saying "That man called another man a NAME. We must stop advertising on one of the top-rated shows on TV because of this namecalling!"

I'm sorry that we in the gay community didn't make a lot more noise about this a lot sooner.

You ARE kidding me, right? Because although I'm not gay, I do have at least one foot in the gay community and I've heard nothing but sound and fury from TGC over this since day one. Except from my brother who seemed to think the whole thing was kinda funny.

I'm sorry that so many actors choose — and it is, whatever they tell themselves, a self-serving choice — to stay in the closet, since the more out actors there are, the less okay homophobia in entertainment becomes.

And here's where I just got so mad at Harris that I could spit nails. Blame the libertarian in me if you must, but I absolutely hate the pro-outing attitude that exists in a large part of the Gay Community. It's not that I want all gay people to stay in the closet, but the attitude of Harris and other high-level gays is galling. They are in New York and California. I've lived in Tennessee and Indiana. Being openly gay is still a career-killer for an awful lot of people. It's very easy to declare Coming Out a necessity when you are cosseted in the bosom of one of the few gay-friendly employment cultures in the country. For many gay people, Coming Out is a minefield that can rob them of their family, their church family and any chance of making Vice President at the bank where they work. And as much as outsiders view acting as a gay-friendly career it ISN'T. The aforementioned sponsors who pay to make TV shows and movies are not dirty hippies wearing Dead T-shirts and patchouli. They are staid businessmen who don't want to alienate the soap, car and frozen-dinner buyers out in the world. The few prominent gay actors had to wait to achieve prominence before they came out. The only gay tv show allowed to be on the air for more than a season--Will & Grace--was an offensive minstrel show with numerous straight actors in gay-face. It is not fair for Harris to insist that others risk their livelihoods and home lives in order to make a Grand Statement.

Yes, staying closeted is a "self-serving" choice. So what? Is Harris going to pay the bills of out actors who can no longer get work as some sort of thank-you? I didn't think so.

Anyone who calls a colleague a faggot and manages not to get fired should count himself lucky.

Really? Is that what we're about now? Firing people for their speech? Most corporations I know of insist on diversity training as a response to this type of action. Historically witch-hunts have never proven successful in the long term.

But really, I'm neither black nor gay. I'm just a woman who has been called a fat cow, four eyes, railroad tracks, bitch, cooze, whore, Aunt Jemima, dyke, faghag, kikelover, idiot, stupid, bible-thumper, jesus-freak, moron, titsy mcboobsalot and cunt. And I've lived with my head held high inspite of it all, moved on and never demanded that anyone be fired.

30 January, 2007

Gwen Shamblin & Me

A few days ago, Slarti pointed out that some of my diet tips were straight out of the Weigh Down Workshop. I feel bad about that, because I didn't mean to lead anyone astray. I've been thinking about it for several days now, and need to set the record straight. Now seems like a good time, for reasons that may become clear later.

I first participated in Weigh Down somewhere between 1997 and 1999. (Years bleed together after awhile.) I bought the book and read it and loved the idea behind it. Surely Jesus would love it if I were skinny! While parts of the book seemed a little bit insane, I overlooked the Crazy in favour of the nuggets of weight loss wisdom. One piece of Crazy has stuck with me for years, however. In the book, Shamblin claims that she is so in touch with The Holy Spirit that she needs never to set an alarm clock. Jesus wakes her up whenever she needs to be out of bed. Hallelujah.

That kind of thinking has always bothered me. Yes, Jesus loves us and provides for us, but he also gives us things like electricity and batteries and stores which sell alarm clocks for a purpose. Pray to God but row for shore, brothers.

In the fall of 2000 I began working for a division of Thomas Nelson publishers--the original publishers of the Weigh Down Diet book. They dropped Shamblin as an author when she denied the Trinity. I began to wonder if perhaps Jesus had gotten her up too early on a few days, leading to sleep depravation and a resultant case of mild insanity. But I didn't really care about her one way or another.

Then I began to work with a woman I'll call Noel. This lady is perhaps the sweetest and kindest co-worker I've ever had. She was also overweight. For years she had worked as Gwen's assistant but then was fired in part because she was overweight. Granted I have only the word of Noel and other coworkers for this, but the several times I've called Remnant Fellowship for clarification, calls were not returned. Now, I can understand a diet peddler wanting, unlike Caeser, to surround herself with men and women who are lean. But for Shamblin, ostensibly a Christian who taught that God loves all people fat or thin, to fire a woman because of her weight was a travesty. Surely if she truly cared for Noel as a human being--and if her diet truly worked--Shamblin would have taken Noel under her wing and worked with her as together they pursued thinness through Jesus. But no. Shamblin was more concerned with book sales and the building of her Remnant Fellowship.

I often drive past Remnant when I take a scenic route into Franklin. It's a not-cheap building on a highly-valuable piece of land. I always wonder at this--at churches who purport to do the work of God yet see fit to spend money on earthly treasures. I suppose they expect to pay for part of the church with proceeds from their lawsuit against Rafael Martinez for libel. In addition to suing Martinez, they are also suing an anonymous blogger.

I can't help but wonder if Jesus does have a special hotline to Shamblin. I mean, he's told the rest of Christians to not sue other Christians. Apparently he's told Shamblin that it's okay to proceed otherwise.

I liked her better when she was just telling me to take half my restaurant meal home in a box.

HBO, You Aren't As Cool As You Think

Oh, HBO. I remember back when you were the It Girl at all the dances. Your original movies had pizazz and verve and daring. Your series were all cutting-edge. Lately, though, I'm questioning your judgment.

The last Original Movie I remember seeing & loving on your channel was Lackawanna Blues. I think that was more than a year ago. Of course, you also produced Something The Lord Made recently, so I'll give you some slack. Some. Not a lot.

But that's beside the point. We aren't here to talk about your original movies. We're here to talk about your Series.

I will always love you for greenlighting, producing and airing all five planned seasons of The Wire. That does give you a small amount of a pass with me. That 'pass' however, isn't going to cover the fact that you seem bound and determined to kill outright any other series of quality, while replacing them with utter krep.

This, like Babylon 5 and The Wire was a planned TeleNovel, originally designed to run for six seasons. Seasons 1&2 were Book 1. You axed seasons 3, 4, 5 & 6--leaving fans hanging without an end to their mythology. And without Michael T. Anderson's brilliant portrayal of Sampson, who has now officialy become one of my all-time favourite television characers. Right up there with Omar.

Given the success of The Sopranos, it was almost a no-brainer to dramatise the original Italian Crime Families, the birth of vendettas and the rich history of that period. So why did you limit this to two seasons? As it was, Rome could have gone on indefinitely. Sure, we can all be easily spoiled by dialling up Wikipedia and Edward Gibbon, but so what? We love Pullo and Vorenus. I would watch Pullo read the Roman Phone Book. If they had phones back then. But whatever. You're jerks for cancelling this show. In fact, if I didn't have one more season of The Wire coming, I'd cancel your channel in retaliation.

I haven't watched this yet, but I have it on good authority that I will like it if I can get past the swearing. Of course, I think I can. We'll see. Discs one and two of season one are expected in my mailbox later today. Given my luck I'll love it, now that it has officially been cancelled.

Big Love
This show inspired this rant. The first six episodes are now on OnDemand. I watched three of them. What an awful show. I hate knowing that show slots and budgets that could be going to Carnivale or Rome are instead being poured down the sewage sluice of this piece of trash. My objection has nothing to do with the "lighter side of polygyny" angle, and everything to do with the flat stories, irritating characters and complete misuse of large chunks of the Veronica Mars cast. I also don't know why the powers-that-be think it'd be a huge treat for me to see Bill Paxton's naked backside at least once every episode. Ugh. I can't stand this program.

So there you have it, HBO. Please get your act together. At least pony up some Carnivale miniserieses. What is the plural of miniseries, anyway?

29 January, 2007

Hey, Gay People! Come Join Me On The Island Of Misfit Toys

It seems as though yet another person has decided I am not married. I cannot be married. I will never be married. This, of course, surprises my husband, my extended family and the roughly 300 other people who attended our wedding. I think it would also surprise the State of Indiana, which so kindly provided us with a marriage license. I know it surprises the four women who had to pay money for a burgundy dress made by the most difficult and rude seamstress in the world.

Alas, sadly, marriage is for procreation. This would seem to me to mean that you can't be married unless you have children.

When I was a kid I would often make it through the more boring parts of church by reading the more thrilling parts of the Bible. (Hey, it's the Bible! Who's gonna yell at you for reading the BIBLE in church? ) Genesis is far better than most movies and television shows. I was eight when I stumbled across the story of Lot's incest with his daughters. Boy, was that more interesting than the Offeratory! So I had this childhood steeped in those Old Testament stories, and soon enough my biggest fear became barrenness. In the stories of the OT a woman's only true currency seems to be as a vessel for offspring. Babies are better than any type of wealth or intelligence. A baby was the only thing standing between a woman and poverty, starvation and death. Tamar was so desperate to secure her place in Judah's household with a child that she dressed as a whore, seduced her father-in-law Judah and became pregnant with his child. Babies were a big deal, and barrenness was worse than blindness. So of course I feared barrenness and of course--lo and behold--I'm as barren as the high desert. My womb may as well be a steel bowl for all the good it does me.

As I've grown older I've realised that despite society, God loves and values barren women. But it still ticks me off greatly when some politician or armchair wannabe politico blogger announces that they're in step with that fertile crescent bigotry. That they've determined me unworthy of marriage, ready for the ice floe of modern society to carry babyless me out of their sight.

Movies On Second Thought: Miami Vice

There are several films now out on DVD that I missed in the theatre for one reason or another. Either I was too cheap, too busy or too disinterested to make the trip to the multiplex. Now that it's January and there's nothing on TV, I've gotten fairly well caught up on last year's videos, and this week I'm going to review each one of them. Too little, too late, I'm sure. Spoilers will be included.

Miami Vice

Did you ever rent a two-disc DVD and put the second disc in first by accident? If it hadn't been for the credits across the opening scene and the fact that there was only one disc for this movie, I would swear that's what I did here. I even looked over at Tim and said "did they just kind of pick up in the middle of the story?" The movie just kinda drops you right in the middle of the action, and you spend the first 15 or 20 minutes trying to figure out who's who and what they're doing. It doesn't help that several characters introduced in those first few minutes never show up again. Weird movie.

There was much oddness in this picture, but by far the strangest thing was the casting. I was addicted to the TV series when I was a kid. Don Johnston ans Crockett was pure distilled hotness. Laugh if you must but that guy exuded sex appeal all over the place. The Colin Farrell version was a skeevy long-haired dude who looked like his idea of a hot date was a Monster Truck Rally followed by some meth-brewin'. Not sexy. Then we have the problem of poor Jamie Foxx. Tubbs was a thankless character on the TV show. Nothing has changed here. In fact, I'm not quite sure why Tubbs was in this movie, other than to serve as the Cop Whose Girlfriend Is In Jeopardy. It'll be years before Jamie Foxx is anything other than Ray Charles to me. Sorry, Jamie. Actually I'm more sorry that you don't have better roles offered to you. Tubbs was a waste of space.

Oh, and might I add that he's also an idiot?

Let me explain something to all of you, even though you will most likely never find yourselves in this situation.

Say your loved one is in a trailer with a giant bomb consisting of big barrells of explosives tied to C-4 and sticks of dynamite. You and the rest of your merry band of maybe-they're-cops-we're-not-sure-because-the-movie-had-a-lousy-first-act storm the trailer, kill the bad guy holding the detonator and wipe out his thugcrew. While I realise that you and your loved-one have a very good reason to be both upset and relieved, it is still a good idea to leave the trailer. Do not tell your loved-one to wait in the trailer right next to the bomb. [Yeah. Three guesses what happened THERE.]

On the upside, I have to say that I absolutely loved the soundtrack to the movie, and will probably end up getting it on iTunes one of these days. The songs were very mood-driven and lush in a techno way. Even though they didn't have the original show theme. (?!?)

All in all, I'd have to say that I can't recommend the film, but I do think the album is worth $13.95.

26 January, 2007

This Will Break Your Heart For Sure

At Christmastime I was watching my sister unwrap her teacher gifts from all of her students. There were plenty of lotions and soaps and candles. A few parents gave gift certificates to malls or restaurants and there were the obligatory Christmas doodads. Teachers are magnets for the "Under $15" gift.

In the middle of the piles of holiday-wrapped goodies there was one stinky plastic grocery bag. It reeked of cigarette smoke and the musty odor of unwashed people crammed in an unaired apartment. Inside was an old spiral notebook with several pages torn out. The other pages were covered in crayon scribbles. A few dirty and dull crayons were also in the bag, along with one chewed and weary #2 pencil. The accompanying note said, in a kindergartner's handwriting something we assumed meant 'Merry Christmas from Justine*'.

That was the best Christmas present my sister has ever gotten from a student. That little girl gave her everything she had. She gave a precious book of drawings and her last few crayons, I'm sure.

I just got off the phone with my sister. Yesterday was the 100th day of school, and they always do a ream (which is actually a 1000, but whatever) of activities to drive home the point of "100" and teach the value of that number. One of the activities involved asking the kids what they'd do with $100. Most kids wanted X-box games, American Girl dolls and other typical 6 year old dreams.

When they got to Justine she had a very simple answer.

"I would buy lots of groceries."

God in Heaven. There is a six-year-old child whose fondest dream is to have lots of groceries. Toys do not even exist in her comprehension of the world. A toy is so far down her list of priorities that she doesn't even think to mention it when she's dreaming big. Her big dream is to eat.

I can't even think of anything else to say about it. Her dream is to buy groceries. That kills me.

For Fans Of The Wire (Again)

[No, it's not "legalise it" day on my blog.]

David Mills at Undercover Black Man has a two-part interview with Wire creator David Simon up at his place.

Part 1
Part 2

Forgive Me In Advance For This Rant on Drugs

Let me start off by saying that I do believe God is taking care of us during this whole job-search thing. I know that eventually things will work out the way God deems best.

Now that I've got that disclaimer out of the way, allow me to say how much this ticks me off.

The Bush administration plans to ask Congress for $10.6 billion for Afghanistan, a major increase aimed at rebuilding the country and strengthening government security forces still fighting the Taliban five years after the U.S.-led invasion. ... The new U.S. money would be on top of $14.2 billion in aid the United States has already given to Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government.

The half of my brain that houses a rudimentary knowledge of global economic interdependence and global impact of national defence gets the principle behind this move.

But right now, as I wade through the red tape of my current circumstances I'm less than thrilled. From where I sit, it appears that the United States has this policy whereby we fight expensive wars in other countries and then pay as much--or more than--the cost of prosecuting the war in order to put back together a country we participated in tearing asunder. This is a very expensive policy that comes out of my pocket. And your pocket.

So we have this War on Drugs which makes the price of drugs go up. Which makes countries like Afghanistan--a major poppy grower--home to drug cartels swimming in wealth. So we spend more money to go over and wipe out the cartels, wipe out the poppies and set up what amounts to an Afghan welfare state. How screwed up is this?

I'll be honest. I grew up sheltered and can be naive about a lot of things. So perhaps I am living in an ivory tower on this, but I don't understand why some drugs are legal and others aren't. I've had relatives who are drug addicts and relatives who are alcoholics. Obviously there are just some people with weaknessess for chemical addiction, regardless of the legality of the chemical. I've known people who are sex addicts and food addicts too. They'll either screw or dine themselves into grave physical harm but last time I looked neither sex nor food was illegal. The Feds don't take your mama's house and car if you are growing carrots in a room in her basement. So why have we decided to prosecute the unwinnable war on drugs in order to make bad men the world over wealthy? So we can spend more of my hard earned money to go after those bad men and destroy their drugs making the drugs the other bad men have even more expensive and so on and so forth?

It's common knowledge that terrorists are funded in large part by drug money. Drug money we've created a demand for. None of it makes sense to me anymore.

And here I sit, a good law-abiding citizen without so much as a traffic ticket. All I want is to live in peace with my family. Maybe order a pizza every now and again. Unlike governments and drug-runners I haven't got an abundance of earthly wealth at my fingertips. So WHY ON EARTH do I have to keep throwing my money down this rabbit hole? Why?

Thank heaven it's Friday. I think I need a weekend.

25 January, 2007

What If I Don't Revere You?

Via NiT I see that a person called Reverend Jerry Maynard is running for something. Metro Council, I believe.

In Maynard's official annoucement, he calls himself simply "Jerry Maynard". Others, it seems, are referring to him as Reverand Maynard, because he's a pastor at a church. Now, I'm not meaning to pick on this man; unfortunately he happens to just be an example of something that has bugged me for, oh, twenty years now.

I don't think ministers should expect to be called "Reverend" outside of their church body. Unlike "Doctor", the term "Reverend" is a church-based honoriffic in certain denominations. It is not an earned degree. Many Reverends do have doctorates, but there is also a whole spate of men who style themselves "Reverend" who do nothing more than read their Bibles and speak well.

Of course, I come from a church tradition that eschews the use of the word "Reverend" for any human being. That's probably part of my bristling. But in my Anabaptist background we don't believe in the lifting up of one person over another. The term Reverend actually means deserving of reverence. Folks like me--picky folks from Germany and Switzerland who would die for God but not for the earthly institutional church--think that the only being truly deserving of Reverence is Jesus Christ. So we don't call our pastors 'reverend'. And I certainly don't think we should be expected to refer to someone else's pastor as a Reverend.

Sundance Controversy

There's apparently a great deal of controversy at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Generally I ignore the Sundance Film Festival, as it seems to be the movies' version of an uptight Vassar grad who stops shaving her armpits, smokes clove cigarettes and changes her name to Blix. Too much hippie-art pretension for my taste.

But this year there is a new controversy that has sucked me into a vortex.

Parker Posey is back.

I have no earthly idea why people keep putting her in their pictures. I really wish they wouldn't, because she just freaks me out with her witchiness. The only film where it worked in her favour was Dazed and Confused. After that she just sort of struts around every film like a praying mantis on meth--all scrawny and twitchy.

Anyway, this year is apparently her Sundance Comeback.

Woo hoo.

24 January, 2007

This Is Just Like Some People I Know

(Hat Tip: Mighty Illusions)


No, I didn't watch it. You can now revoke my 'serious adult' card if you like. It just seems that with everything going on in my personal life, professional life and my husband's professional life I don't need the added stress that comes with the SOTU address. No matter what side of the issues you're on, there's bound to be somebody to aggravate you. Could be the president, could be a commentator, could be an anchor person. It never fails, though. The SOTU is like chocolate-coated bacon fried in trans fat. It's guaranteed to get your blood pressure up. So I skipped it.

Don't worry, though. Life served up enough tasty punishment to pay me back. NCIS featured enough mushy stuff to make my inner ten-year old wince her way to a headache.

"You want me to kiss you."

Honestly. That was an actual line.

23 January, 2007

My Weight Loss Tips

This is a post for those of you who opened my blog this morning, saw "Aquinas", thought "it is too darned early for this krep" and decided to go read something else. FWIW, I don't blame you. That post was borne out of caffeine, insomnia and that long-dormant college rumination gene.

So, on to lighter fare. Literally.

I'm not officially dieting, but I've--as of today--lost 36 pounds. I was talking about this with some friends of mine at church, and decided that I'd do a brief post on my non-diet diet tips.

I am 36 years old. The first diet I went on was when I was 11. I've been on any number of diets since then, but last July I decided I'd never diet again.

I still wanted to lose weight if possible, but more than that I wanted to be healthy. The drawback to this gig is that I don't have the dramatic "Hey! I lost 8 lbs. this week!" types of victories, but I do finally feel as though I've internalised healthy thinking. In other words, I can live my life like this.

So here, in a nutshell, are the few things I have done over the course of the last 6 months.

1. Cut out caffeine

I went from about 6 cokes a day to none. Since they were regular Cokes, this also helped with the calories in a big way.

2. "Tithe" my food.

No, I don't offer it to idols, so there's not that danger. But I figured that if we're supposed to give 10% of everything to God, it might help me shape up if I left at least 10% of my food on my plate. Some meals this goes up to 50%, but I generally don't clean my plate anymore.

3. Go to the bathroom on a different floor.

I counted one day and realised that this burned an EXTRA 200 CALORIES each day. Of course, I have a kidney disease so I go to the bathroom a lot. But whatever. It's still a good idea.

4. Do ONE healthy thing each day.

I've been on enough diets to know that they tell you to eat the pyramid, get an hour's intense exercise, cut out caffeine and basically forego all of life's minor pleasures in pursuit of some nebulous goal called "health". Unlike the good people in this world, I have no desire to be 'healthy' if it means I've spent my entire life enslaved to a treadmill and a pile of carrots. So I decided to just do ONE healthy thing each day. Eat an extra serving of vegetables. Skip dessert. Exercise. I pick one. Some days I pick two or do all three. But I don't force myself to be ruled by my health regimen. I know me. I'd never stick to it otherwise.

5. No carbs before 3:00pm unless eaten with protein.

6. Rules were made to be broken

I will have the very occasional coke, or spend a day now and then not doing anything healthy. If you put the world's best lasagne in front of me, I'll eat it all and forego the 10% rule. But it's only occasionally. I figure that's the price to pay for staying on track.

This is the most fun I've ever had, and the best I've ever done on any weight control/health control thing. I highly recommend inventing your own thing.

The Scariest Thing I've Read In A LONG Time

Honestly, Ned, I don't mean to keep picking on you. And I would address this in the comments of your post, if only it were applicable to the original discussion. However, I'm moving far afield and longer winded so the conversation is here for now.

In the comments of your Why Rally For Life post you say

But the law is often most useful in protecting us from others (and yes, occasionally ourselves in this interdependent society) who would be tempted or inclined to make a decision based on what felt right to them at the time.

Let's look at that, shall we? (As soon as I pick myself up from the floor.)

Shall we begin with a brief look at the Purpose of Law? Of course, this is something people have written long-winded doctoral theses on, so we'll only touch on it here. But my understanding of The Purpose of Law is to protect and EXPAND freedom. Forgive me, then, if I do not view laws passed "to protect me from myself" as an expansion of freedom.

I think, as I read through the writings of you and others in your common set, that at some point your group came away with a fundamental misunderstanding of Thomas Aquinas' four laws. In a nutshell, these four laws are thus:

1. Eternal Law

The world order as conceived by the mind of God.

2. Natural Law

The role of humanity in the participation of Eternal Law, discovered through Reason. Or as Aquinas said:

this is the first precept of the law, that good is to be done and promoted, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based on this

3. Positive (or Human) Law

The implementation of Natural Law (#2) by Governments. In short, how we mutually decide to codify good and punish evil.
Remember #3, because it will be important in a minute.

4. Divine Law

Since God is God, He has a right to change things. Aquinas and I both believe that Mercy Under Grace is completed in the Divine Law. This is that lovely area where Christ's sacrifices come into play, and where God in His mastery creates a new covenant with man. Also important.

Those are the basics. And here, I think, is where I differ with the yous and the Terry Franks and the Phil Valentines of the Conservative world. (Perhaps this will also answer some questions of Aunt B.'s, now that I think about it...)

As I see it, here in America we've elected to have a State governed solely by #3--the Positive Law. You can thank Locke, Jefferson and the Enlightenment for that. We've taken a few looks around, sat down and formed an agreement about what is good (freedom) and what is bad (the limitation of freedom.) We decided that it was important to provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty. That was what was important to us. Yes, there have been hiccoughs along the way--Great Compromises, The Volstead Act, that kind of thing. But we're young and finding our feet and striving toward the goal of the blessings of liberty. Like we said we wanted to.

Unfortunately there are a lot of folks around these days who are confusing Divine Law (Aquinas' #4) with Human Law (Aquinas #3). The way I've always understood it, the Divine Law can only be know through the revelation of Grace. That's why it's called "Divine".

I am an odd breed, I'll admit. When it comes to the governance of the United States, I happily take a Locke-ian Enlightenment position. This does not mean I disbelieve in God's ultimate law. It merely means that I believe there is no way possible to translate the perfection of God's law through the designs of Man. Any attempts to do so ring false, and seem as though the Men who would desire to pass those laws are trying to elevate themselves to the position of God.

All of that was a watch-making way to say this. Conservatism, in its truest form, should be about pursuing the ideal state of Human Government through the rule of Law. Our goals should be to EXPAND freedom by conserving our impulses toward larger government. At no point do we have the right to look at other free men and say "Brother, I am here to protect you from yourself by limiting your freedoms with this Law." That is nothing short of slavery, and should not be tolerated.

I would thank you to protect yourself from your baser impulses through the taming of your personal nature and leave me to the tending of my own weeds.

22 January, 2007

Nevermind. I Lied. But I Have To Say This To Ned (and others)

Dear Ned Williams:

You and I are supposedly from the same side of the ideological aisle. Yet as I read this post you wrote today I find myself wondering if we are truly concerned about the same things.

You see, when I speak of "sanctity of life", I'm talking about valuing everyone equally. Unborn babies, mothers of unborn babies, my next door neighbours with the annoying dogs. It's important to me that the only sanctioned killing we do is as consequence for criminal behaviour. Yet I do understand the circumstances that lead to a woman's need for abortion as an option. I've decided that the way for me to express "sanctity of life" is to work hard to alleviate the circumstances out of which the need for an abortion arises. That's my belief in a nutshell, and you can feel free to argue the finer points of that all you like.

My problem with your approach is that you've taken a very personal, very human situation and turned it into partisan bluster. Your post is called "Why rally for life". Silly me to expect you to say something about the actual LIVES involved. Instead you, like most others on both sides of this issue, talk a great deal about the political expediency of your political position. It's as though your Sanctity of Life position is less about life and more about scoring points in your political gamesmanship. Not once in 6 paragraphs do you actually talk about the lives in question. Instead there is much talk about "Democrats this" and "African-Americans/Blacks that". It's more of that talk show bluster that betrays a complete lack of interest in actual solutions, and instead pummels away at The Opposition while ignoring the humanity all around it.

Perhaps someday you may realise that behind all of this slouching toward goalposts there is a 14 year old girl who thought he really would love her if she just did what he wanted and is now facing the scariest choice a person could make. An actual living, breathing 14 year old girl who could really use a glimpse at the face of Jesus.

Blogging For Choice

It's Blogging For Choice day.

I'm leaving the abortion thing alone, though. I've said all I care to say about that.

I want to blog about the thousands of other choices being taken away from free citizens of the United States.

The choice to smoke.
The choice to eat what you want.
The choice to drink what you want.
The choice to watch what you want on television channels you pay for.
The choice to move freely about your own country without presentation of government-issued identity papers.
The choice to ride in a car in the most comfortable way for you to travel.
The choice to read whatever you want from the Public Library.
The choice to take appropriate medicine to relieve your pain and suffering.
The choice to do as you wish with your personal property.

Today's the day we talk about the right of Americans to choose. And yet the arguments surrounding our right to choice have been so laser-focused on one choice, the exercise of which is available to only 50% of the population, that we seem to be allowing the erosion of choices available to all of us.

Today is blogging for choice day, and I'd like to mourn all the choices we've already lost.

How The Internet Could Save The Oscars®

Yes, I've actually given this a lot of thought. Why, I don't know--other than the fact that I've been on an insomniac phase lately and there's only so much Age Of Mythology a person can play.

When I was a kid, The Oscars®** were a big deal and I used to LOVE watching them. They were glamourous and exciting. Now they're more like a very fancy business meeting for a company that sells products I don't use. I think I'd have as much fun watching the televised year-end banquet for some mid-level Life and Casuality Company. ["And the two-week Hawaiian vacation for most new clients signed in the past three quarters goes to....Bob Watson!!!!"]

Like Norma Desmond I spent a lot of years thinking that it was because the pictures got smaller. Or more esoteric. And yes, there is a degree of that. Lately, though, I'm thinking that part of it is because the pictures have gotten so inaccessible. I've been reading bits and pieces of this year's speculations on who will win, who should win and why. Most of the films and performances have something in common.

They're in movies that I haven't seen.

With the gap between Good Films and Fun Films getting wider, the types of movies that people push for Award-Worthiness are not generally playing in one of the theatres around my house. Even if they were, I do not go to the theatre to see serious pictures. As a general rule I reserve the time and expense of a theatre trip for the experience of a movie that's pure entertainment--just like I don't go to the Ice Cream Parlour to eat my breakfast cereal. Yes, I realise that's probably sacrilege because these good films deserve to be seen in a film environment.

But even the nominating committees watch them on screeners. That means that they have DVDs of the movies delivered to their door in hopes that they will actually watch the films and nominate them for an award. The very people in charge of deciding the artistic merit of a film see most of the worthy candidates in the same way I'd prefer to see them. At home with their dogs and a bowl of soup. And here's where my plan comes into play.

As on-demand film delivery accelerates, I think it would be much easier to get the home audience to see these types of movies. As much as I'm interested in The Last King Of Scotland and Notes On A Scandal, for instance, seeing them is almost prohibitive. Scotland is presently playing at precisely one theatre in town, and I want to fight traffic in Green Hills about as much as I want to take in Morgan Spurlock as a boarder. Notes is not even playing THERE. On the other hand, could I download these films and watch them at home on Thursday Night (when Ugly Betty and The Office are both in repeats) I would do it. And then I would actually have something to care about on Oscar® night.

***Isn't it so pretentious how I'm putting the "®" after Oscar, like the Acadamy is going to sue me if I don't? Really it's just because I recently figured out how to make that little symbol on my blog, so I'm overusing it.

20 January, 2007

Trauma On A Saturday Afternoon

If you know me at all, either in person or via the blog, you are probably aware of my biggest neurosis. (Or what I consider to be my biggest neurosis. You might have a different ranking on your scorecard at home.) In case you had forgotton, I'm absolutely freakish about having any food in the bathroom. Or dishes in the bathroom.

Yes, it's my whacky brand of Kosher. Where food is at the beginning and where food is at the end should be kept miles apart in my book.

Which is why today's baby shower presented a bit of a throw-up-in-my-mouth moment.

I'm generally not a fan of showers, largely because they involve some of the stupidest games I've ever been subject to. These games usually involve the wearing of safety pins, the cutting of ribbon or the unwinding of vast amounts of toilet paper. No. Sorry. Not my idea of fun. Yet I do like the part of showers where you get to intermingle with the people who make up the various social circles of the honoree. There's usually a potpourri of women--some from work, some from church, some from their distant past. Everyone seems to have at least one Barnacle Friend who's known them since they were in Kindergarten together. Those people interest me. All my Barnacle Friends are stuck in Indiana and therefore relieved of any tedious Kat Shower Duty should I fall pregnant.

Oh yeah. Back to the grossness. I've been putting off writing about it because I don't think I can take it. But much like memories of life's most embarrassing moments I have to confront this to be rid of it.

Today we played the Shower Game From Hell. Here's how the game works: your hostess puts various candy bars into diapers and microwaves them. She then walks around with the ::::shudders while typing:::: mushy chocolate-filled diaper and you have to guess what type of candy bar it was before the nuking.

I swear to you I had tears running out of my eyes. At one point I actually said "Oh Dear GOD!" in what was most decidedly a plea to my Lord without any touch of blasphemy. I came thisclose to spraying spinach dip and green punch all over Barnacle Friend's carpet. I swear I'm traumatised.

And if I ever meet the inventor of this game, I will make them watch a three hour videotaped autopsy.

18 January, 2007

The Office: Jaw.On.Floor ((Spoilers))

This was a good episode on a lot of levels--especially Jim's decision to finally be honest with TB!K about his feelings for Pam. But I'll be honest. I'll probably have to watch it a couple more times before I decide if it was funny or not.

You know all the jerk moves Andy made? Calling people stupid nicknames, boyflirting with the boss, showing off his cell phone? All that stuff?

I swear to you, I could have written Andy from a diary of a coworker I once had. Given the fact that people I know from all walks of life have found my blog, I have to be pretty circumspect. But I promise you. I worked with a guy exactly like that, down to a t. In fact that's one of the reasons I ultimately left that place of employment. No one else wanted to work with the guy, so he ultimately got shuffled off to me to "handle." So while I enjoyed the show there were a few too many flashbacks.

Now I REALLY Have To Watch What I Say

Two old friends have found my blog. First it was my parents, then my brother and sister in law. Then people from my old church. Now it's old friends from Jr. High and High School.

I think it's kind of cool that I have a transparent net presence. But now I definitely better be on my best behaviour.

More Grey's Gay Dish!!!!

Ohh snap.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word for Someone Named Isaiah.

I know I'm wicked for loving the dishiness of all this, but I do.

Things On My Desk

Today's boring post is a list of things on my desk. I really wish I hadn't promised myself I'd write every weekday, because that means you all get to read things like "a list of things on my desk." But we'll try to make it interesting, okay?

A Stack Of Computer Games In Their Boxes

Now that they've started packaging games in the Trade Paperback size (instead of the Hardcover Size) I'm back to keeping the boxes. I know it sounds crazy, but it makes me feel slightly more justified for spending $39-$49 for the game. When the boxes were bigger I think we were supposed to throw the box away and keep the jewel cases. Somehow a jewelcase screams "$8.99!!!" to me. But these nice clamshell boxes have more gravitas. Of course, I also have a cheap CD case stacker that holds all the games in jewelcases. I'm embarrassed at the price of a junker car represented by that stack of junk.

Sims Manuals

Both the OFB and Nightlife manuals are on my desk. Why? Because the games take forever to load, and I page through the pamphlet-sized suckers while I wait for them to power up. Of course, since I haven't played Sims since October, you'd think I could put these away. Hah! What fools you anal mortals be!

Three Hair Elastics

When I'm working around the house I'll often braid my hair or pull it back into a ponytail. Inevitably when I sit down to my desk I'll get sick of having my hair back and take it down. Hence the logjam of ponytail holders.

My Dead Cellphone

Yeah. Not a good idea to plug a cellphone into the adapter for your portable CD player. !!BZZZZT!!!

A Bottle Of PetRelief Anti-Itch Spray

It's Veternarian Approved!! My stupid dog won't sit still to have me put this on him. Lucky for me he has a regal blue pillow down under the corner of my desk where he likes to lounge. I will occasionaly stealth-squirt him with this stuff while he's distracted by his own laziness. Of course, I can't do it too often or he'll avoid the pillow altogether. It's totally random. Yeah. I'm gonna make a great parent some day.

A Sticky Note With Holly's Cell On It.

I really need to call her.

My Ghost Earrings From Halloween

Have I mentioned that I'm not really good with the "putting stuff away" thing?

Two Happy Meal Pigs

They were promotional items from "Babe". I love pigs, so they sit on my desk to remind me that I love pigs. In case I forget.

A Glass Hershey's Kiss

One of my former co-workers gave me this for a Christmas present. It was my first year as an assistant for that particular company. I spent a lot of time doing thankless tasks. This particular thing was the nicest present any of my 5 bosses gave me. One of these days I'll work in a company where they give you things like gift certificates for ham. Until that glorious day I have my little glass Kiss. It IS pretty. But you can't buy a ham with it.

A Bottle Cap From Boylan's Black Cherry Soda

Seriously need to work on the "putting stuff away" thing

A Lava (rip off) Lamp

Let me be clear. This particular one is not a Lava® Brand Lamp, but a Spencer Gifts Knock Off. That may explain why the lamp--which started as blue water with white lava--is now clear water with grey lava. I'm toying with throwing it out. Because it's moved from Serene to Uggo.

A Bottle Of Contact Lens Wetting Solution

Hey. You know what? I oughtta give this to Hubs. I can't even wear contacts anymore. I sometimes wish I could, but I've been wearing glasses for 25 years now. My face feels very out-there-naked if I'm wearing contacts. I live in perpetual fear of some random person walking up and poking me in the eye. Of course, the fact that I have bad allergies also has something to do with it. But I'll stick with the "fear of random eye poking" as my no-contacts excuse.

Besides. The last time I wore contacts people kept telling me I needed to lay off the pot. I swear the redness was totally allergies.

My Cordless Phone

I love these phone sets where you have three phones on a main base. Now whenever I want to harrass my husband upstairs I just dial Intercom 2. How cool is that?

Two Cups Full Of Markers

I love colour. It cheers me up. For that reason I collect markers reflexively. I think I have about 35. They'd be excellent for writing those notes that the cheerleaders used to give the Basketball team on game day. You know, where they'd use like 5 colours to write one word? Those notes. As it is now I just use them for phone messages. I think my husband hates the light blue on pink paper ones. You can't read them without a CSI team.

A Cow

I think he's lonely. He's my only one-of-a-kind stuffed animal. All the others come in pairs.

A Paddington Bear

Paddington is very underrated. For some reason Pooh gets all the press, even though he's like Paddington's cousin who got stuck in the Remedial Studies class.

8 Monkeys

I love monkeys. Now that my PC has moved back upstairs I can have my giant 4 foot tall Love Monkey sitting on my desk. I really should put a printer there. But the monkeys make me smile. Printers just make me curse. I really hate printers.

Anyway, there you go. A Brief Tour of my desk and the clutter that lives therein. I promise I'll really try to come up with some politician I hate or some rant about the grocery store to make this like a real blog.

17 January, 2007

Tracy Moore

The Scene and I have a notoriously rocky relationship. That's obviously true. I've sent at least two of their writers into fits of tears, or so I've been told by a grapevine that includes one of the writers' mothers and Wayne Christenson. When I first moved to town at 21, I thought the Scene was the paper for those like me. People who bought their clothes at thrift stores, hung out in used bookshops and bummed around Mosko's until their 4:30 shift started. The Scene was boho goodness in a city that was either country music-mad or Old South Cheekwood Swan Ball Elitist. The Scene was supposed to be the niche for artsy will-think-for-food types.

I guess somewhere we parted ways. Maybe it was when I realised that no bisexual men, fortune tellers or washed up soap opera actors would pay me lots of money to advertise their services. The Scene got those gigs. I actually think it was right about the time I was looking through an issue in early May and saw an advertisement for the Mother's Day Brunch at F. Scott's. I don't know about you, but people in my social circle--the boho group--don't do a lot of meals at F.Scott's. That was when I cottoned on to the Scene's hipper/richer/better-than-you vibe. I don't really need that Cousin's Christmas Letter grief from a paper whose chief use to me is as a lister of movie showtimes.

By now, you've probably heard all about the too cool for school Scene contributer slagging off a McDonald's employee for offending her delicate sensibilities. This brings the creeping fog of Scene Elitism to a whole new level, and proves that it doesn't take a lot of cash to be cruelly elitist in your attitudes. I don't know how much she's pulling down as a Scene writer, but I don't think it's enough to buy her out of the miasma of grief occupied by most of the working poor. Unless you're King, Rowling or Joel Osteen neither writing nor self-righteousness pays a whole heck of a lot. [Especially when your writing is so inaccurate as to confuse "nearing" with "surpassing"]

In the comments over at Pith, Tracy talks about her various slag jobs slinging greasy food and porn for pervs. Her life has been no piece of cake, apparently. This would seem to not only give her license to be ticked off about a McDonald's employee's personal opinion that had nothing to do with the quality or edibility of the food Tracy bought without any gun to her head whatsoever, but to call the poor woman's boss, the woman's boss' boss and write about it on the Internet. There are two kinds of power in America. The power that comes with money and the power that comes with the ability to have your speech heard. Often the two go hand in hand. It's also one of the reasons the Scene has a grudge match with bloggers. We encroach ever so steadily on their power base. So no, Tracy doesn't have the power of great wealth, but she does have the power of the press. Today she used that power to beat a woman into submission. What fun!

Of course this whole problem could be solved if Tracy would get over her inner guilt about the dangers of her smoking habit.

Down And Out In Brentioch, Tennessee

I'm lucky, I guess. I've made it for 36.5 years without having to file unemployment. For obvious reasons, that's one of the things on Hubs' to-do list, and I have to say that I'm speechless.

I have car insurance. If the car is damaged, the insurance pays to fix it, less a deductable. If the car is totalled, I get the value of the car at the time of the accident.

I have homeowners' insurance. If my house is damaged, the insurance pays the cost of replacing the house, minus the land. (We're assuming here that land neither burns down nor is blown away, ruined forever by floods or stolen from under the house.)

I have health insurance. If I go to the doctor, the insurance pays the bill, less my deductable.

That, my friends, is how insurance is supposed to work. It is supposed to replace or nearly replace what you've lost.

Not so with Unemployment Insurance in the state of Tennessee. According to the rulebook you are supposed to receive weekly benefits equal to half your weekly pay amount for up to 26 weeks. That doesn't sound so bad, right?

Hah! Fooled ya! Here in Tennessee, we cap that weekly amount at $275.00. For the record, that's the equivalent of a salary of $28,600. The median household income for the State of Tennessee is $38,945. I think I've found my new political crusade. I personally believe that the cap on Unemployment Benefits needs to more realistically reflect the earnings "insured" by the program. The cap should be raised at least to $375.00 per week. That's half the weekly earnings for the median income within the state.

Granted, I'm up in arms about this right now because it's affecting me personally, but I really am thinking about the larger picture. The number of personal bankruptcies filed in Tennessee is legendary. We usually have the highest number of filings per year. Among the top reasons cited for filing is "loss of job." Clearly our unemployment insurance is inadequate for the majority of Tennesseans.

When a person has a job, they take on financial obligations. Mortgages, utlities, car payments, credit card debt. The higher a person's income, the greater their capacity for financial committment. If a job is lost, there is no way to meet those committments. The original thinking behind unemployment insurance was that it would be good for the community as well as the individual. If Joe has a credit account at your store and he loses his job he can't pay you. So your store suffers and your creditors suffer as well. Next thing you know, everybody's bankrupt--which means nobody else gets their money. And the cycle continues.

By keeping the unemployment benefits capped at a ridiculously low amount, Tennessee is keeping itself behind the financial 8-ball.

We personally are fortunate in that we have no credit cards, no car payment and some savings. We should be able to weather the storm without too much damage. But change one element of that equation--toss in a few credit cards or a car payment--and things would be bound to get ugly fast.

I'm a fan of bankruptcy in that it beats Debtor's Prison hands down. It's better for the economy because it encourages people to take risk and it's better for society in that it offers us a fiscal safety net when life spirals out of control. But I'm sure most people who file bankruptcy would rather have had a little bit better coverage from their Unemployment benefits.

16 January, 2007

Two Strikes--Local Bloggers and Spam

Today marks a special occasion. It's the second time that a local blogger has sent me an actual SPAM email.

(Just to clarify--we're talking about two bloggers, each doing it one time.)

Here's the thing. I love email. I'm crazy about email. I giggle inside everytime I get an email. That's why SPAM sucks. It's like playing Spin the Bottle with all the cute boys and having your spin end up pointing to the card table in the corner where the punch and cookies are. You get your hopes up and all you get is junk.

Spam from local bloggers is the worst. Because they are people I know, either online or in person or both.

Folks, I make every effort to read all the blogs on my blogroll. I try to hit each blog on my blogroll at least once every other day. Really.

There is NO need to send me an email to visit your blog.

And furthermore, should you decide to send a bunch of us an email at the same time, could you maybe mask my email address?

Netflix Is Finally Actually NETflix

At long last, the business model the founders of Netflix dreamed of years ago has come to pass.

Starting this week, Netflix will begin to allow its subscribers a chance to view their movie choices online.

Of course, this only applies to a select few.

The Los Gatos-based company plans to unveil the new "Watch Now" feature Tuesday, but only a small number of its more than 6 million subscribers will get immediate access to the service, which is being offered at no additional charge.
Netflix expects to introduce the instant viewing system to about 250,000 more subscribers each week through June to ensure its computers can cope with the increased demand.

Of course, it doesn't work with Macs or iPods.

Blockbuster, are you paying attention?!?

Lost: Is the End In Sight?

Guess what?

The creators of Lost are talking about picking an endpoint for the show. The best shows, in my opinion, are the ones which keep an end in sight, and are written as though they were a novel. (The Wire, Carnivale, Babylon 5) It looks as though the Lost crew are starting to get the picture.

Cuse and fellow showrunner Damon Lindelof have insisted in the past that they do know what they're doing, that there is a master plan, but that they have to reveal things in haphazard fashion because they don't know how long they have to stretch out the story. By setting a finishing date far in advance instead of following the usual TV business model of running a show into the ground, they feel they'll be able to have a more coherent storytelling approach going forward.

To this may I say "Yes, please!!"

When I first tuned into Lost, I loved it because it had that show/novel feel. I've been vacillating between 'they have to stretch things because the network insists on keeping the show on indefinitely' and 'they have absolutely no idea where they're going with any of this.'

A decent endpoint would allow them to create and adhere to an arc that will hopefully be a lot more suspenseful than the show we've gotten lately.

And yes, I know a lot of people still love it. I'm glad you do. I want very badly to love it. I'm hard on it because I expect a great deal from what started as a quality show. I'd love for the writers to have enough creative control to say that the show will end when it ends.

15 January, 2007

Could You Be Less Black?

So I just watched this TV movie. It's a story about a girl who has a black mother and a white father. She happens to be light-skinned, and her brother is dark-skinned. She's very angry at her mother for being black. It brings shame on her to have the "darkest-skinned mother in the whole class" and she's very upset that the bills from her mother's Sickle Cell Anemia have racked up such debt that she, the light-skinned daughter, has no shot to go to college. (God forbid the daughter take out a student loan or three, like the rest of us have.)

At one point she starts yelling at her mother for encouraging her brother's blackness. "Do you have to let him listen to Hip-Hop music? It just emphasises his BLACKness to everyone. People don't like black people. It's hard to live in this world when you're black. You're just making it harder on him by encouraging his blackness."

Oh. No, wait. SORRY... That's my mistake. The mother and brother weren't black. They were fat. And the movie, Lifetime's Fat Like Me was one of the biggest cases of anti-fat prejudice **sponsored by Jenny Craig** that I've ever seen.

Skinny athelete Alyson loses a softball scholarship to a knee injury and decides to shoot for a film scholarship instead. She dons a fat suit, attends summer school and lives through 47 minutes of "woe is me" fat stereotype set pieces. It's like K-Tel's Greatest Fat People Hits, As Compiled On Oprah And The Weight Watchers Online Boards. Everything is here:
--The fat girl is asked to leave a clothing store that "sells nothing in her size."
--The fauxfat girl is only befriended by an actual fat girl and her 'fat-adjacent' friend. For the record I've never before heard the term 'fat-adjacent.' I assume it's the Aughts' version of "fag hag". Lovely.
--The Fat People (Mother, Brother, Fat Friend) are shown in numerous scenes eating high-sugar and high-fat food.
--The Fat Friend keeps a stash of candy bars in her glove compartment.
--People "moo" at the fat people and make rude comments about their fatness.
--The fat mom had diabetes.

For the record, I've never been moo'd at, to my knowledge. I don't keep hidden stashes of candy or cookies. I do not have diabetes.

Movies like this make me angry, because they purport to blow the lid of the stereotypes that they actually reinforce. All fat people hate themselves, are miserable, don't have boyfriends or girlfriends or spouses who love them. All fat people are depressed loners who cannot make friends outside their social groups. And fat people are only fat because they eat too much out of some gnawing emotional hunger. If only their parents would have hugged them, they would not be fat.

There are dozens of reasons a person becomes fat. Excess food consumption is only one of those reasons. Other reasons include genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalance, medication, pregnancy, physical limitations, excessive stress, excessive hours spent at work, increased sedentary time due to computer work and having a mate who is attracted to heavier men or women.

Not every person who is fat is an emotional cripple. Some people do gain weight as a result of depression. The best way to treat this is to treat the depression first, and address the weight as a symptom, not a root cause. But this movie made it seem like weight is an easily fixed abberation.

All you have to do is call Jenny Craig.

Seeing (Red)

AIDS in Africa is a tragic issue that we'd all do well to be concerned about. Bono is a good man for trying to bring this concern to the fore.

All the (RED) products, however....

I feel much the same way about (Red) as I do about 'pink'.

In short, if you are truly concerned about making a difference for the stated cause, send the charity a check. In the case of (Red), that would be The Global Fund. It doesn't have to be a big check; the amount of the proceeds donated for any of the purchases at The Gap would probably be less than $1.00 per clothing item. So just send $5.00 to the charity and don't feel you have to tell the world about it.

That's what gets me about (Red) products. I've got to look at the ad for the Gap line on the back cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly and everytime I see it, the cynic in me wants to throw up. Since I'm already in the bathroom that's very convenient. But all the shirts and belts worn by the shiny happy people have this air of smugness about them. When people buy these products are they paying for the item or for the smug? Because those things--especially the shirts, with slogans like Desi(red)--are now so ubiquitous, when a person wears one they may as well hang a sign from their neck.
World: I am a Good Person. Probably Better Than You. Because Eighty-Three Cents From This Shirt Purchase Was Sent To Some Charity Somewhere That Bono Thinks Is Cool.

I've never been a big fan of bragging about one's charitable deeds. To my mind once you tell people about it, it ceases to be charity and becomes publicity.


Huh. This is interesting. In a kind of backhanded way. The (Product)Red website offers an Impact Calculator which allows us all to gauge the value of our (Red) purchases. Kind of. I think it's rather clever of them, because instead of revealing the dollar amount they receive for each purchase, they tell what the like-value is. For instance the Impact of a Gap T-Shirt is "41 single-dose (nevaripine) treatments to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child." That's probably better than telling people the actual monetary amount received by the charity. I myself have seen enough of those Sally Struthers commercials to know that Africa is this bizarro world where $20 can feed, clothe, medicate, house and educate a human being. Ironically, according to Medilinks Africa, the African cost of Nevaripine is
Free as two doses for mother and infant treatment

Yes. You read that correctly. Nevaripine is offered free by the drug manufacturer for mother/child treatment. The 41 single-doses the T-shirt "pays for" are most likely the cost of a technician who distributes the pills as needed. So, about eighty-three cents.

Don't worry, though. If you aren't getting enough smug for your buck when you buy (Red), you can feel free to send Impact Cards to your friends and family. In short, you can send them an email letting them know exactly how much your consumerism has helped the dying of Africa and guilt them into helping too.

14 January, 2007

The World Agrees With Me About Something

So I have this pet peeve that I've had for years. I think I actually get it from my mother.

Anyway, this particular peeve is when people talk about a man taking care of his offspring and say that he's "babysitting." If the kids are yours, you are parenting.

So today in Sunday School Homeroom they made mention of there being a ladies' activity in September and said that the men had to "babysit."

Of course, you know me and my Tourette's. I couldn't keep still and shouted out "NO! If they are your kids you are NOT babysitting. You don't BABYSIT your own kids." Or something very similar to that. People there know me, and while I'm sure they were annoyed they let my outburst slide.

Anyway, turns out I was watching a TiVo'd Law & Order:Crazy Faux Sherlock Played By That Guy From Mystic Pizza episode, and they said the exact same thing in that episode.

I love it when I'm on a wavelength!!!!

What's Shakin'?

Lately I get the feeling that God occasionally decides to turn everyone's life upside down like a snowglobe. It seems like 2007 is starting off with a blegh for a lot of folks I know. People are either out of a job, out of good health or out of a relationship.

I keep hoping that if this year is indeed roaring in like a lion that by the end it'll go out like a lamb. Wouldn't that be fantastic?

Funnily enough I was really at peace with all of the fractured goings-on of my own life until I went to church today. That seems backward, because it seems like church is the place where we're supposed to find solace for grieving spirits.

But when we stood singing Holy, Holy, Holy I was struck by this part:

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

I realised that I'm so far from holy, and I feel as though I deserve nothing from a Holy God. Of course, later we sang Wonderful Grace Of Jesus, and even though we didn't do it the rollicking Mennonite way, it did drive home the point that the Wonderful Grace of Jesus reaches me (and is deeper than the mighty rolling sea, etc.) But I'm still stuck in this mire where it seems like my problems--and the problems of those around me--are too big for God to handle.

Yes, I'm mad at myself for allowing my faith to be compromised by mere circumstance. But there it is nonetheless.

I've been really hesitant to write any of this out on my blog because I really like to strive for positivity. But I'm tired in body and soul. I suppose maybe we should have sung Leaning On The Everlasting Arms too.

12 January, 2007

On Hack Writing

Over at Mother Tongue Annoyances, Tim has a nicely-written piece about hack writers.

In part, he has this to say:

This commitment is key for me inasmuch as I have always, for as long as I've been writing professionally (eight years), steadfastly refused to commit a word, either electronically or in print, or to remain silent, unless I believed 100 percent in what I was writing or keeping silent about. Does this make sense?

In other words, "I will not barter my words" means, to me, that I will not prostitute myself to the highest bidder and, say, begin writing marketing copy for the "widget of the week" simply to bring some extra coin into my household.

It's a nice sentiment and one I can see the point of.

But I'll be honest. I've written a lot of things for money, and been happy to do it. Why? Because as much as I like my reputation as a writer, and as much as I love the written word in most of its forms, I also love eating and sleeping indoors. Yes, I've written catalog copy for some of the world's homliest photo albums. Yes, I've written books for games I don't even know how to play. And I'll probably do it again. Hopefully. One of my goals for this year is to get at least two freelance articles published.

And I don't care where. Dog Fancy. HomeLife. Anything. Just something published with my byline. Because I'm a writer. It's the one thing I'm halfway good at, and I figure God wouldn't give me some degree of talent with something if I'm not supposed to use that talent in this lifetime. I'm tired of burying that talent in the backyard.

And yes, I'm writing a book. And no, it's not the great American Novel. I've decided I don't want to do that. I want to write the kind of books that people with busy lives will pick up in the airport or the grocery store or the front rack at Barnes and Noble. I want to write the kind of books that take people's mind off their own crap lives and offer them a bit of fun.

Maybe that's hackery. But maybe, just maybe, it's called "doing what you love" and there's not a problem with that.

Time, Temperature and Money

I am embarrassed to admit this, but it happened again this morning and I have to know if I'm the only person this happens to.

I get time, temperature and money confused.

I was watching the oven heat up, and it was at 255 degrees. I thought to myself "only 5 more degrees until it's at 300."

I do this kind of stuff all the time.

WaPo Copies WKRN, Makes The News

Did you see this?

Apparently the Washington Post is trying to unite bloggers in an umbrella ad scheme:

The Post (WPO: news) invited anybody who has "a blog about D.C." to a get together at headquarters Tuesday night. About 100 attended, the Post's Marc Fisher reported. "This was a chance for all sorts of local bloggers to hear from Post news executives about how the paper is not equipped to cover the micro-local events and issues that bloggers specialize in, and to explore ways in which the paper, its website and bloggers can collaborate, at least by referring readers to one another's work," he wrote.

Nice to see this Nashville-based business model making its way to other cities.

WaPo Copies WKRN, Makes The News

Did you see this?

Apparently the Washington Post is trying to unite bloggers in an umbrella ad scheme:

The Post (WPO: news) invited anybody who has "a blog about D.C." to a get together at headquarters Tuesday night. About 100 attended, the Post's Marc Fisher reported. "This was a chance for all sorts of local bloggers to hear from Post news executives about how the paper is not equipped to cover the micro-local events and issues that bloggers specialize in, and to explore ways in which the paper, its website and bloggers can collaborate, at least by referring readers to one another's work," he wrote.

Nice to see this Nashville-based business model making its way to other cities.

The Office Discussion: Spoilers***



This was a fantastic episode, with the only drawback being that maybe it was a little Pam-light. That's alright. I can deal, considering the fact that we had so much goodness everywhere else.

It was really excellent seeing the sales teams actually going out and doing what they do best. I've been in a few of those meetings, and as much as people give sales staff a rough time there IS an art to it. It was a treat to see the fun side of what can be a very nerve-wracking job.

Honestly, though, after comparing the two in their sales calls, I think it's obvious that Dwight (no matter how much of an oddball he is) is very good at Sales for Dunder-Mifflin. Ed, on the other hand, is very bad at selling anything other than himself. I've met a few of these clowns, and I swear to you I so badly wanted to jump off the couch and say "That's Blankety-Blank! From my old job! That's exactly how he operated." To me there's nothing more frustrating than a coworker whose number one priority is how they can move up in the company.

I felt Dwight's pain, but now I'm feeling my own. There is NO Office without Dwight. The look of destruction on Angela's face does promise good times ahead, though.

The other gut-turner was the throw-away conversation between Phyllis and TB!K. As much as I don't care for the way TB!K has come between Jim and Pam, I felt bad for her right there. Jim's lack of forthrightness has already cost him much in the way of a relationship with Pam, and I think it may spell doom for Karen as well. She has put a lot on the line and I think he owes her at least enough honesty to fill her in on the Topic of Pam.

Everything was nicely played, including the fact that Michael wasn't allowed to run away with the show. Steve Carell's portrayal of Michael is sort of like anchovies. A little bit adds interesting flavour. Too much makes it taste terrible.

I absolutely loved the show, and if for no other reason than it has given me an excuse to call my husband "long Tim."

11 January, 2007

See These, McNulty? These Are For You!

I love The Wire. I love it so much, I'd marry it--once my divorce from chocolate ice cream came through. That was the first thing I was told to "why don't you marry it?" back around first grade or so, and I'm nothing if not a fan of long-term commitment.

Sorry. Off-topic. Back to The Wire. It's a grand show, the best television has to offer. It takes you into the closest approximation of real-world environments possible. It tells an epic story of Biblical proportion on a grand scale. It features cops, criminals, politicians. Many characters are all three of those rolled into one. It's a gritty story about a gritty world.

That means there's swearing. Not a word here or there, like when you or I hit our thumbs with a hammer. No. In The Wire, they have raised the use of four-letter words to an art form. It's part of the cadence of their speech in the world of Baltimore crime and punishment. I don't doubt for an instance that the real-world hoppers and shorties and knockos have a language so woven with expletives that it would make a sailor blush. The show is created by a former reporter who lived in that world for most of a year and a former police officer-turned-teacher who lived in many facets of that world for upwards of seventeen years. That's why I don't mind the cursing. It's part of that world, to which I have bought a ticket.

Last night they started showing The Wire on BET. These episodes are sanitised for your protection. And they're AWFUL. Just horrible. Or at least the 4 minutes I sat through were excruciating. The censors seem to have this extremely wierd idea of what constitutes 'ok for tv' and what doesn't. This means that F---- is bleeped, but S--- isn't. Large portions of dialogue--crucial to setting up character relationships and personalities--are either bleeped heavily or chopped into non-existence. The most ridiculous part was the confrontation between Rawls and McNulty where Rawls delivers most of the speech while saluting McNulty with Tall Man.

They blurred Rawls' fingers. And the fingers only--not the whole hand.

Because obviously no one watching has ANY idea that he was holding up his middle fingers.

I've already told my parents not to watch The Wire, because I don't think they could get past the language to find the story. I'm upfront about it. This is a rough story about rough lives and rough people.

After last night I'm convinced that it has no place on basic cable.

10 January, 2007

Just Show Me What I Need To Know, Ok?

Over at All Along The Watchtower, Big Orange Michael talks about the Direct to DVD Battlestar Galactica movie that is supposed to clear things up from season three and set the stage for season four. Prior to this season of BSG there were several mini-episodes of the show which ran on the internet. Those webisodes introduced several characters and provided some backstory.

Other shows, like Lost are doing similar things with their content. Sure, you can watch the show during its normally-scheduled airtime, but if you want to know extra fun facts about characters and show mythology you need to hunt down a website or two.

I blame George Lucas for this. When the new Prequel Trilogy Featuring Jar-Jar® finally hit the screen, they were long on special effects and short on story. Time and again I'd visit a fansite to say "what's the deal with [blank]" only to have some 45 year old guy named Trent who worked at Comic City tell me that the entire story behind [blank] would have been revealed if I watched the animated series, read the comic books, followed the website, attended the talk with Lucas, jumped down, turned around and picked a bale of cotton. Apparently just showing up and paying ten bucks to get into the movie was not going to inform me.

I've had it. Yes, I like learning interesting things about the various characters that don't pertain to the story itself. *** But when I sit down to read a book, watch a TV show or take in a film, part of that experience is to be told the story in the package I bought. I don't want to be told 80% of the story and have to track the other 20% down on the internet. In every case where this gimmick is used, the main body of work suffers in quality and viewership. The ratings for this season of BSG are down. Lost is a shadow of its former self, with all the intriguing Hanso Foundation stuff left out of the tv show in order to make a compelling web experience for Superfans. And we all know how C+ the new Star Wars trilogy was.

So here's the thing, Hollywood. Tell the story within the parameters of the story itself. If you are giving us a TV show, keep the narrative on the episodes themselves. If you're shooting a movie, find a way to put the story we need to know in the movie itself. That's what we fans are paying for. We have no interest in building up your Web Presence. Thank you.

***For instance, did you know that in the Harry Potter series, Dean Thomas--who thinks he's a muggle--is actually the son of a wizarding father? His father was cruelly murdered by Voldemort and his mother remarried a muggle to keep Dean safe. That's a nice little side story but has nothing to do with the Septology.

I'm also a big fan of Office outtakes on the web.

09 January, 2007

How A Cheesy British Thriller And American Cop Shows Have Influenced My Politics

I have never believed that a government-sponsored Universal Healthcare program is a good idea. The older I get the more I do think that having access to healthcare coverage independently of an employer makes sense, primarily because some of the folks in greatest need of healthcare are, by definition, unable to work. There should be a way for people who can't work to get insurance. I haven't thought through that mechanism yet, and am still working on it--although any ideas I come up with are not really of any consequence, seeing as how I'm a freelance writer and not A Person Of Great Power.

Steven at Cows & Graveyards asks some interesting questions about Universal Health Care, and I have to say that the questions do have merit.

But I cannot fathom what kind of a nasty world this would be if we had a governmentally-sponsored/run UHC program. The other night I was watching some thing I TiVo'd off BBCAmerica. A woman had been found dead in a dumpster and the key suspect was the husband of the main character. In the course of trying to identify the dead woman, the pathologist discovered the deceased's recent abortion. Something about the state of the uterus and cervix, I believe. Anyway, the investigators got a list of women in the area who had an abortion in the last four weeks prior to the girl's death. At one point the central character says "I thought this was confidential information" and she's told that it is. The unspoken thought is that catching a killer is more important than the privacy and confidential medical records of 85 London women.

Similar things happen on the various Law & Orders I watch. Take Perv Squad for instance. There's always someone deciding that private things like library records and doctor-patient/attorney-client priveledges are less important than figuring out who is looking at Kiddie Porn.

Now, personally, I am in favour of neither murder nor kiddie porn, but I really don't like the philosophy of setting aside certain 'inalienable' rights for the sake of expediency in a police investigation. I feel strongly that if we were to move to a UHC system, we'd be giving our government the keys to our domination. If they are paying for our medical treatment--in whole or in part--they will claim entitlement to our medical records. Is that information you want the government to have?

**Zune-Bashing Ahead, Villeins**

I was about to go into DTs because I couldn't get into my blog. That's a sad statement on the state of affairs in my world, I realise. Yet there it is.

By now, I'm sure you've heard the wonderful news about the iPhone, yet another gadget I do not need and cannot afford, yet crave badly. Every year the MacWorld keynote really tests my Tenth Commandment stamina, because I always come away coveting something. It's truly sad.

Speaking of sad, let us all take a few moments to mourn the passing of The Zune. Much like a Dickensian character, it was destined from birth for failure. Today was the day that I think we've seen the manner and mode of its death.

People have only so much disposable income--trust me on this. Gadget people want the newest and shiniest possible tool with the most productivity. As of right now, The Zune has been supplanted by the iPhone. Huzzah!

Yes, that is the second time I've written "Huzzah" today. I've been reading this book in my spare time, and it's been colouring my speech. I've started calling my dogs "varlets". It's yet more sadness invading my world.

08 January, 2007

Rams, Part II

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post that my mom keeps trying to get me to clean up and submit for publication. I liked it. It was a good post.

I probably should have gone back and re-read it last Thursday when everything came crashing down. Because the minute I heard that my husband's contract wouldn't be renewed I just fell under the biggest cloud of despair. (Thanks again to all of you for prayers and kindnesses.)

But if I'd been even smart enough to go back and read what I had already written once I'd have been comforted by the ghost of troubles past.

As it is I feel like a total idiot right now. I feel like one of the Israelites who witnessed all ten of the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the drowning of pharoah's army and STILL stands in the desert whining about bread. I mean, honestly. Oh me of little faith.

Any way, all of this to say that while I was so busy fretting about my future I was ignoring the faithfulness of God. I'm such a human dolt.

And today, as He always does, God showed me the Ram in the Thicket. I don't deserve it, but I imagine He might be getting a good laugh out of the whole thing. Apparently a family member sold some land and decided to make an equal gift to all of us with a portion of the fruits from the land sale. It's not millions of dollars but it's enough to ensure that we can keep our house payments up and pay for COBRA for a couple of months. In short, it's what we need and enough is good as a feast.

So, yes, Lord, I'll try to be better about trusting You.

Fundraising Life Lessons

Malia has a post this morning that sent me careening down memory lane to one of the more painful memories of my childhood.

Of course, if this is one of the more painful memories, I guess I had a pretty good growing-up experience overall.

I went to a Christian school for 11 of the 13 years of my pre-college learning, so fundraisers are something I know very well. I think we had at least 3 a year until I was in high school. Then we had five for both my Junior and Senior years. We sold candy, wrapping paper, cookie dough, magazines and overpriced gewgaws like jars of butterscotch, scented candles and other things I've come to refer to as "nursing home nicknacks." Out of karmic duty to all the neighbours and church people who bought from me, I've decreed that I will buy from any kid I know who is selling stuff whenever I'm financially able. (Since I have a husband who also went to Christian school, he's on board with this plan.)

The thing is, there's always a competition to motivate the kids to sell stuff. There are usually prizes for selling different amounts (available to everyone), and a grand prize for selling more than anybody else. The grand prize was always particularly grand. Trips for 4 to Cedar Point plus a day of school--that kind of thing.

The problem was one girl in my class--we'll call her Jenny since that was her name but there were 3 Jennys so it's still halfway anonymous. Anyway, Jenny's dad was a salesman who had a large three-state route. While the rest of us bravely went door to door in our neighbourhoods (this was the Seventies--before we were all afraid of serial killers and child molesters), Jenny's dad took her list with him on the road and worked it into his sales pitches. Guess who always won the big prize?

I have internalised a bunch of lessons from this experience, and I'm actually kind of shocked to realise they've stayed with me for the better part of 30 years.

1. The higher the stakes, the more willing people are to 'bend the rules' in order to win.
2. No matter how hard you work, if you are doing it honestly you will not be able to keep up with the cheaters.
3. Competition sucks for those who always play by the rules.

Let's Talk About Monkeys

I've started and abandoned at least 5 different posts, each of which was some really turgid form of boring navel-gazing. It's the first Monday of the New Year and as such will have its own degrees of moroseness for everyone. I don't need to add to it with my strange ramblings.

Instead I've decided that I want to celebrate monkeys. I love monkeys because they always make me smile no matter what my day has been like or what mood I'm in. I love dogs, but they'll break your heart. Monkeys, on the other hand, come with no strings attached. They're just goofy, silly smiling things.

One of the silver linings accompanying our less-than-wonderful news of last week is that in reshuffling various office equipment between my basement desk and Hubs' loft office, I've now got room for my four-foot-tall love monkey on my desk. I like having him there much better than the monitor that I had.

Around 12 years ago I adopted a monkey from the Paradeis gift shop in the Nashville Airport. He's been a mischevious companion on most of our travels since then. His name is Jonathan, but he'll also answer to Jinx.

That's him at the Wilderness Lodge in Disney World.

So anyway, have a happy Monday, and if you get too down with the whole malaise, just think of a monkey. It'll cheer you up every time.