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30 posts from September 2008

September 30, 2008

Head for the Hills!

Head for the Hills!

By Sarah


Okay, so the market's going to hell, the ECONOMY is going to hell and our futures are, at best, uncertain. What's a girl to do? If you're my friend, Lisa, there clearly is only one answer - Mt. Kilimanjaro. Why? Because if Martha Stewart can climb it - that bitch! - so can we.

First, let me explain. I've been friends with Lisa since I was four. She was the maid of honor at my wedding and I have dedicated at least two, maybe more, books to her with great success. She's funny and pretty and the kind of person everyone loves. Also, she's a go along, get along kind of gal. Wanna see Journey in concert? Wanna go to Vegas? To Amsterdam? Hike Kilimanjaro? Lisa is your gal.

Yesterday she stopped by for a visit after attending a wedding in Cape Cod. Again, as she has for more than a year, she mentioned this Mt. Kilimanjaro thing. "It's a walk!" she exclaims. "No rock face." We should definitely do it.

Sure. A "walk" up 18,000 feet. And since when did Lisa get so gung ho on camping (which she hasn't done since a college geology class)? I can't answer this except to say both of us will turn 46 this winter and desperate times call for desperate measures. Granted, in the past this has meant a road trip to Chippendale's or, perhaps, a swing by the Stone Pony. (Lisa's a Jersey girl to the bone.) But now that we've quit smoking and rock concerts hurt our ears, maybe we need a challenge that only nauseating altitude sickness can offer.

"Six shots!" she says, counting off her fingers hepatitis B, some odd parasite thingy, perhaps a tetanus or two. Then, of course, there the anti-malaria pills one must take and the caution against ring worm.

Other than, no preparation. (Aside from finding 14,000-mile-high mountains to climb for practice.) AND you can even hire a sherpa-like person to carry a "toilet" for you - a line that immediately conjures Tenzing Norgay with a Kohler. The slower we take this, the easier and more expensive it will be, Lisa assures me. Kind of like the British in the Sahara with their afternoon teas. Only, without the silver.

Part of me is beginning to come around to her way of thinking. I like the idea that, because Kilimanjaro's on the equator, one climbs through every type of climate - desert, rain forest, snow-capped mountain. I like that it's technically easy and if that one takes it slow enough, it's possible to adapt to the altitude and not get sick. (Though headaches, edema and, gulp, death, are not unheard of.)

I like - glamping. Glamorous camping where people (slaves?) trek in cots and tents and portable showers sounds divine. Do you suppose they throw in pedicures?

Then there's the theme of two friends, buddies for forty two years, taking on a challenge that's beyond them. Think Romy and Michelle hike Africa. When Lisa and I are together, we never shut up. We can talk about books/movies/mutual friends forever. Or we can discuss her life-changing experience of having to euthanize a ground hog she accidentally wounded with her car by pulling a U turn and, in a moment of great humanity, stepping on the gas and running over him again. (To put him out of his misery, natch.)

Just think how merciful she'd be with me on the trail.

So, should I do it? It'll require a year of busting a hump to get in the best physical shape of my life. And then there are all the scary stories of people giving up half way, lots of talk about "punishing" trails.

But it's a once in a lifetime chance - in a lifetime that's rapidly getting shorter - to do something phenomenal with my lifetime friend.

Or should I just stay home and watch the Dow plummet.?

Advice needed!

Sarah

September 29, 2008

Paul Newman: The Heroic Anti-Hero

Paul Newman: The Heroic Anti-Hero

By Elaine Viets

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Scott Fitzgerald said that American lives had no second act. But Paul Newman had a second act, and a third, and a fourth.

As a teenager I sighed for those blue eyes. As a grownup, with some small idea of the temptations he faced, I admired the man himself. In an industry known for its bad examples, he was a good one.

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Newman started acting in the 1950s, and a lot of people (especially men, who we women know can be really bitchy) said he was nothing but a Brando knockoff. They claimed Newman owed his career to the death of James Dean, not to his talent. You can see a rare screen test with an achingly young Newman and Dean. Dean hits on Newman, and Newman looks embarrassed out of his mind.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhUjS1nnS4k

It is true that Newman got his first big screen role in "The Battler" after Dean died in a car crash. But women knew quality when we saw it. Newman got better as he got older, and I’m not talking just about his looks.

He had to wait more than 30 years for his first Oscar – and that one was an honorary award in 1986 for his "many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft."

Newman won his first competitive Oscar a year later for "The Color of Money." He picked up a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

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Let’s talk about that charity.

The news reports say Newman and his neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman’s oil and vinegar dressing, Newman’s Own, as a joke. The label showed Newman and his daughter, Nell, dressed up like the grim couple in "American Gothic." Newman’s Own ended up selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, and organic, dairy free, wheat free fig cookies called Fig Newmans. The company reportedly donated more than $175 million to charity. Some joke. That was the third act in Newman’s life.

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The second act was when Newman took up racing in the 1970s and turned pro. His team took second place in the Le Mans in 1979. He told People magazine, "Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood."

Newman got away and stayed away. He lived in an 18th-century farmhouse in Westport, Connecticut, with his wife, Joanne Woodward. They had three daughters. Newman also had two daughters and a son from a previous marriage.

He knew tragedy, too. His only son, Scott, died of an accidental overdose. Newman started the Scott Newman Foundation to finance anti-drug films for children.

Newman was so liberal he wound up on Richard Nixon’s enemies list, an honor reserved for the best of the best.

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You never saw reports in the press that Newman made a fool of himself with sweet young things, drugs, DUIs, or the countless other ways that actors embarrass themselves. He was notoriously faithful to his wife, Oscar winning actress, Joanne Woodward, and supposedly told Playboy magazine, "Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?" That’s class.

Newman’s attitude to his reviews was equally sensible. He said he never read them: "If they’re good you get a fat head and if they’re bad you’re depressed for three weeks."

Good advice for both writers and actors – from a good man who led a good life.

September 28, 2008

Ike Blows

Ike Blows

By Guest Blogger and Ike Survivor William Simon

A huge and thankful TLC welcome back to our own William Simon, who survived Ike and is here to tell about it.

Long ago and far away, there was a television series titled THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Riding the “spy boom” of the ‘60’s, it featured futuristic gadgets, outrageous security systems, and unbelievable weapons.

One episode that always stuck with me was titled “The Mad MAD Tea Party Affair”. In it, the Bad Guys try to destroy U.N.C.L.E. HQ by taking it over. Their first step was to cut power to the entire building, leaving the Good Guys helpless. Completely and totally helpless. None of their fancy gadgets worked, their security alarms were useless, they had to rely on their wits and intelligence to survive.

I remembered that episode, but never really appreciated it.

Until September 13, 2008 at 3:35am, when a chap named Ike came to call.

Ike shut down the entire city of Houston. Complete. Total. Massive damage in Galveston and Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula is now Bolivar Island. They say it was a Cat 2 storm, topping out at 110 mph. Cat 3 is 111 mph. Splitting hairs, anyone?

Some people had their lights back on the same afternoon of the storm. Others had to wait; I waited 13.75 days. Many others are still waiting, and may be waiting until early November.

But I learned some things the past two weeks:

When Mother Nature decides to show us who's really in charge around here, you're never too old or too 'grown-up' to not be scared when it's raining so hard you can't see the house across the street and the winds are whipping by at over 100 mph. Trust me on that one. (As an aside, winds of 30 mph will knock a man my size off his feet; this was more than triple that.)

When your neighbors have a 48 ft. pine tree uprooted and it falls straight into the middle of the street, hitting absolutely nothing, and everyone comes out and stares at the root ball in the middle of their lawn that's approximately the same size as the picture window in the front of their home, reactions range from “Thank you, God” to “F--- me!” They mean the same thing.

Taking pictures right after the storm is not a good idea. After watching two huge trees in your backyard do the Dirty-Bounce Boogie for several hours, your hands shake for a while, regardless of what did or did not happen to your house, and the pictures come out blurry.

When the eye of the hurricane passes right over you, you find a whole new appreciation for the expression 'dead quiet'.

“50 is the New 30” is bullshit. It’s a lie, it's media hype. After a sleepless night and day, spending an afternoon and evening clearing broken branches, leaves that soaked up so much water a shovelful weighed close to three tons, and other assorted debris from your lawn, then helping your neighbors do the same (in some cases five of you moving chunks just slightly smaller than a Mini-Cooper), next morning the bottle of Ibuprofen is more important than sex. (Sorry, ladies, but it's true.)

You know better than to even glance at a chainsaw, but you are extremely appreciative of the guys who can use one properly and safely.

You're just as hot, sticky, and miserable even when you put on clean clothes.

Shaving by flashlight, man or woman, is a challenge worthy of a reality show hosted by Ryan Secrest or Tom Bergeron.

Knowing your neighbor two doors down is an EMT makes you feel safe, until you realize she's not home as she's working 20 hour shifts in other parts of the city.

When you get generator power, the first thing you plug in and test is the coffee maker. Just to make sure it’s working.

When nights falls, extension cords take on a life of their own, and move accordingly so you can trip over them. If you stand still and listen in the dark, you can almost hear them snickering; this is a clear sign you picked a bad week to stop smoking, and an even bigger sign that you watched wayyyyyy too many horror movies as a child.

Having spare parts handy to repair someone’s computer that was accidently left on when the storm surge hit is a nice feeling. Making it work for them so their kids can be occupied is a better feeling. The feeling increases exponentially if they were one of the Chainsaw Guys who helped you out a few days before and looked at you as if you had insulted their mothers when you offered to pay them for their efforts.

The first time you start your car, and that air conditioning comes on full force, you may actually ask yourself, "And people complain about living in their cars?"

Driving down a street that looks like something out of an old war movie is very spooky. And yes, Virginia, there are houses behind those fallen trees and mounds of debris. Or rather, there used to be houses behind all of it. Now there are just shattered memories and broken dreams.

Cooking out of a single pan on the grill is for Boy Scouts, and wears thin quickly in adulthood.

Contradiction to the above: Hot Pockets can be done on a gas grill, and they taste as fine as escargot, filet mignon, creme brulee, and champagne under the circumstances.

People really can survive without television and the crap that’s on these days, but having no news reports for almost a week can make one paranoid and jumpy as hell.

If you're lucky enough to find a place with WiFi internet, there are no words to describe the feeling when a single email from a friend in another state hits your Inbox, especially if you know that friend has their own crises going on, but they took the time to check on you.

The newspaper says eggs will keep for seven days; go for yourself on that one. Food poisoning and a power failure are a bad mix, in my opinion.

You cannot access a FEMA web site without power or Internet. When will bureaucrats realize this? These are the people in charge? (See verbal reaction #2 to uprooted tree, above.)

Traffic lights are the single most important invention of the 20th century, more so than the automobile itself, jet airplanes, computers, microwave ovens, DVD's, Home Theaters, cell phones, pacemakers, dialysis machines, Big Macs, pizza delivery, or anything else you can think of.

Speaking of cell phones, having had the foresight to buy a charger that connects to the cigarette lighter in your car makes you feel really smart, until you learn some of the cellular towers have been knocked down. (Again, see Verbal Reaction #2, above.)

Receiving your electric bill with the hurricane surcharge and having to read it by flashlight when sitting in the dark can make you question your love for your fellow man, not to mention the utility companies.

Laundry hampers after 10 days are eligible to be certified by the EPA as ‘dangerous’, no matter how clean and finicky one is about one’s person.

Still and all, I was luckier than a lot of people. I felt like Tom Hanks in CASTAWAY when he was flicking the buffet lighter on and off, on and off, remembering how he had struggled to build a fire. Late Friday night, I stood in the doorway of my office and flicked the light switch ON and OFF, ON and OFF, ON and OFF, marveling at the wonder of it all.

It’s the little things in life….

September 27, 2008

The TLC Vent-a-Thon

The TLC Vent-a-Thon

By Kathy Sweeney

Blog_angry_with_gunOkay, let's just cut to the chase. Everyone is a hair trigger away from blowing up. I expect bars and beer stores to do a bonanza business this weekend as everyone just tries to put one foot in front of the other without committing a felony.

Instead, let's use the blog to vent. Venting, in case you've never done it, means letting off steam in a safe place, rather than bottling up all the rage and frustration until you are ready to blow like frozen turkey in a deep fryer (not kidding - that'll take out half a block).

Here is an example - taken from the Shrink Book of Tricks, Volume 1:

Write a letter to the person who is making you batshit crazy, and say everything you want to say. Just don't send it. Let's try one, shall we?

Dear Elected Official:

How 'bout you pull your fat, grotesquely-shaped head out your lazy ass and DO SOMETHING for a fucking change? Huh? Here's a good one - instead of PRETENDING you really care about the people who elected you, why not just TELL US we're SHIT ON A STICK and go back to the Love Boat with your cockroach, leech-face lobbyists, and I'll meet you on the LIDO DECK with a BASEBALL BAT and some CEMENT SHOES?

Warmest regards,

Your Consituent

P.S. Fuck you, you fucking fuck. (Sr. Zip gets credit for that one)

Feel better? Not really.

Blog_phonerageNext step - break shit. I mean it. I used to buy old crappy dishes at a yard or garage sale and then throw them against a cement or brick wall. Very satisfying. I kid you not.

Still feel like tearing off someone's head and shoving it down their throat? How about yelling? Try it. Just bellow at the top of your lungs until you run out of breath. If you can still see without spots in front of your eyes, do it again.

No good, huh?

It might be time for better living through chemicals. That's right. Pick your poison. Demon Rum? Reefer Madness? Crack? Or, for those of you who prefer to avoid municipal incarceration, a brownie sundae. Or a big, rare steak and a single malt scotch chaser. Perhaps the sheer bliss of fresh, homemade copper kettle fudge.

What do you do to vent? Do share with us, won't you? Because I'm running out of ideas.

AAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Blog_paul_newmanSaturday Update:

We lost a great man today, when Paul Newman's battle with cancer came to an end. I say he was a great man not because he was gorgeous (he was) or because he was a great actor (he was) but because he used the power of his name and likeness to do great things. He raised millions of dollars for charities such as The Hole In the Wall Gang - a series of camps for children with special needs - and instead of leaving his fortune to his family, he left it to philanthropic organizations.

September 26, 2008

Margie's Story Time: The Big Economy That Couldn't

Margie's Story Time: The Big Economy That Couldn't

By Me, Margie, who totally cannot believe this is happening.... again

Hello boys and girls. Today we are going to tell a story about something very important. It's called The Economy and it is worth a story because it can make people feel all kinds of big time emotions. Like happiness, or sadness, or anger, or the desire to crawl into a big glass of brown medicine and stay there for a week.

I am telling this story so that my nieces and nephews can understand, because the first story I wrote had so many bad words in it that my bosses made me cross them all out and all that was left were a couple of articles and intransitive verbs. So here is the new version from Aunt Margie's Big Book of Stories.

Long ago, in a country that seems far, far away, there was a little economy. The economy ran on things like crops and steel and coal and rail roads and other things you can grow or mine or manufacture. It became strong, because when you build with actual things you can touch, the foundation is real, not pretend. It chugged along, happy and healthy, like all little things do at the beginning of the story.

Blog_darth_maulThe little economy grew and grew and then some greedy bas - I mean, some selfish people decided to start selling things that weren't real. Some of the things were based on fraud - which is lying - and some based on real things, like loans that had collateral. Collateral means a something like a favorite toy that you exchange to borrow money. When you pay the money back, you get your toy back.

That is fine, but then some rat bas - I mean some clever people who wanted to make more money than just the regular interest rate put all those kinds of loans together in a big box and then mashed into a sold block of stuff you can't recognize and then the block is sliced up into a million pieces that are sold and traded until no one remembers that you actually had a collector's edition Darth Maul, new in box, and good luck getting it back. Oops, that was a negative thought, wasn't it? We need positive thoughts to help our little economy grow, don't we? And for those of you who fail to see the value in Darth Maul, three words: Double. Sided. Lightsaber. Oh yeah.

Well, the little economy was young and eager, and it didn't know about scams or - as some people called them - speculative investments. And the economy grew and grew, like a a big balloon, and then one day - oops. The balloon popped. It's always sad when a pretty balloon pops, isn't it? So imagine this balloon has everything you like in it - like your house and your food and your clothes and your will to live. When the balloon pops, all those things go bye-bye. That is not good. That is very, very bad.

So the government (We all remember the government, right? Those are the people we elect to represent all of us. Sometimes government people will say one thing when they want you to vote for them and another thing after the election. It can be very frustrating and that is why some people go totally Postal, but that is another story) decided that the economy needed help, and some people needed a time out. Aunt Margie thinks some people needed to be smacked upside their lying, greedy heads, but we don't hit, do we? No. What? Yes, well some people DO like hitting but only for fun and let's remind ourselves never to tell our moms and dads about those magazines you found under Uncle Billy's bed? Right. That is a big, big secret.

So the government passed laws that said 'this will not happen again and we are going to make you people in the economy tell us what is going on, and plus there is a difference between brokers and bankers and don't you forget it, buster.' It took the government a lot more words to say that, but the whole idea was to learn from the mistakes and make sure no big balloons popped again.

It came to pass that the economy started to grow again. How did it grow? Well, kids like you grow big and strong because you eat the right things, and stay healthy, and don't do drugs and drink your milk. Some of you will grow tall and some of you will stop growing in 10th grade, which is bad except you can keep all your shoes forever and they will still fit.

Well, the economy grew - but not by doing those good things. Instead of eating vegetables and home-made steel and other good things, the economy was chowing down on stuff no one had ever heard of before. And if you have a big dinner of hedge fund with a side of short puts and a big carafe of no-doc variable rate mortgage-backed funds, you will have something worse than a really bad stomach ache.

And the government? Well, the government was getting bigger too, because people were taking it out to dinner at fancy restaurants, buying it drinks, and trying to convince it to do things that weren't really a good idea. Yes, just like your cousin Rita's dates. I am glad to see you are listening.

And the next thing you know, some of those laws they passed went away and the other ones had so many loopholes that they looked like someone took the scissors to a pair of fish nets. Which we don't do. We never use the big scissors without a grown up and we never, ever go back into Aunt Margie's dresser, okay?

Blog_jabbaWell, with no one watching it, the economy kept eating and getting bigger. It was gorging on all that bad stuff, plus a lot of Chinese food that had lead in it or something. Lead is worse than MSG, just saying. Pretty soon, instead of looking like Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia, the economy looked like Jabba the Hut.

I know, right? Totally gross. Now, you would think that the people working right there with the big economy would say something like, "Yo, Dude, you need to cut back on the toxic waste and all that high priced oil, and eat some damn broccoli or something. And how about taking the stairs every once in a while?" But no. Instead, they kept feeding the economy more and more bad crap.

Well, we all know what happened next, don't we? Ka- Boom! The balloon burst again, except this time, the balloon was filled with all that rotten stuff the economy had been eating. Kind of like when you puke, except really, really big. Ewwww, is totally right.

The pukey stuff went everywhere, and everything started to stink. Bad. People acted shocked, as if no one knew the bad stuff was in there. Duh. People can be very dumb.

So now, the government people are having a big argument about how to fix the economy. Most of them don't even want to figure out what happened because they are in a BIG FREAKING HURRY to act like they know what's up and tell all the people no worries, we'll fix it, but it has to be now, because, like, we have vaca plans. Like we're stupid. Oh, sorry. We don't say stupid. How about stone ass- oops. Well, you get the idea.

Some people want pretend we have a lot of money to just throw around like a big blanket so we can pretend there is not a big stinky mess under it. Some people - and this is Aunt Margie's favorite, because it is like, so amazingly ballsy that even though it's an insult to anyone with a brain, it takes real guts to even say it. They want us - all the people - to give them a blank check for zillions of dollars to buy the big pukey mess that isn't worth anything. You know, the stuff that reeked so bad that no one would buy it? Uh-huh. That stuff. And they want to use some of our money to pay themselves big bonuses for trashing the whole system. Right, because if you set your McDonalds on fire because you forgot to change the fry oil, they'd give you a nice gold watch and a trip to the Bahamas. Which would be really hilarious if it weren't so IDIOTIC.

Hand Aunt Margie her pretty glass with the lime in it, okay? That's better. We all remember not to drink out of Aunt Margie's special glasses, right? Good. Have some more koolaid. I made sure your cousin Petey didn't put any Robitussin in there this time. Fridays are not a good night for sleepovers at Aunt Margie's house. She has other special friends coming.

Any way, it's a big, big mess, and a very sad story. And Moms and Dads and Aunts and Uncles are very nervous and upset and very, very angry. So if I were you, I'd stay in my room and not ask whether you can go to ToysRUs.

The end.

September 25, 2008

Welcome to Paradise -- Just Don't Drink the Water

Welcome to Paradise – Just Don’t Drink the Water

By Elaine Viets

Tuesday night, Don and I watched a comedy called "Zoom: Academy for Superheroes."

The phone rang in the middle of the movie. I checked the number on caller ID. It didn’t look familiar. Probably a telemarketer or a pollster.

"Should I pick up?" I asked Don.

"No, let’s finish the movie," Don said. "It’s nothing important." We weren’t going to interrupt an evening of movie watching and hand holding.

I sat back and drank a healthy glass of water. Don had a beer.

Don made the sensible choice.

After the movie, we checked the message. At first, I thought it was a joke from the movie. A recording from the City of Fort Lauderdale said that there was a red alert and we were not to drink the water.

"Customers served by city water are advised not to consume or cook with any tap water, even if boiled."

Huh?

Here was the city’s explanation: "A small amount of lubricant was spilled into the water supply, and until testing is complete to ensure the water is safe, don’t drink or cook with it."

Lubricant? What did that mean? Did somebody drop a jar of KY Jelly into the city supply? A vat of Vaseline? A barrel of motor oil?

News reports said that the city had shut down the water pumps and started testing the water for safety. Results were expected within 24 hours. Meanwhile, 250,000 people couldn’t get a drink of water.

The warning was issued about 4:45 p.m. We heard about it at 9 p.m.

What had I been doing for the last four hours?

Wallowing in water. I couldn’t have been in more H2O if I was a fish.

At 5:30, I went outside for half an hour of exercise in the condo pool, in what I hoped was old, pre-warning water.

I came back and showered in lubricant-laced water. Then had a soothing cup of tea made with tainted water.

My aquatic binge continued. I washed pots in the sink. I had a glass of tap water with ice.

Now it was 9:30 p.m. I had to take a heap of pills. They required water. Lots of water. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so good.

I’ve lived in places that have had water problems. Washington D.C. shamelessly issued several water warnings when we lived there in the mid to late 1990s. We were told to drink bottled water or boil the tap water, especially if we had a pacemaker or any immune system problems. Judging by the way my neighbors’ trash clanked, water wasn’t a big issue in our Capitol Hill neighborhood.

But in the current Fort Lauderdale water crisis, we couldn’t even drink boiled water. What was lurking in the city’s supply: LSD? Flesh-eating bacteria? Creatures that destroyed face lifts? Something evil was floating in the Fort Lauderdale water.

The next morning the news reported the problem was caused by "a small amount of gear oil."

Gear oil? That was all? The Florida EPA Website says it’s okay for us to drink asbestos (seven million fibers per liter), arsenic (.01 milligrams per liter), and .2 milligrams per liter of cyanide, plus dabs of chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, nitrates, nitrites and other poisons. That’s quite a cocktail pouring out of our water taps. It could give South Florida a whole new tourist campaign:

"Welcome to Florida. Look at the water. Drink the beer."

September 24, 2008

Mouthing Off

Mouthing Off

by Nancy

I was mindlessly flipping around my television a few nights back. (Full disclosure:  I was actually looking for Project Runway reruns.  If that show were Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby, I'd weigh 300 pounds by now.) I came upon two ladies making fun of Martha Stewart.

Which, hey, we've all done once or twice. 

Except this turned out to be an actual show with the sole purpose of making fun of Martha Stewart! Here's a promo. Yes, a whole television program to ridicule another television program! Is this a first?

Here's the kicker:

One of the show's hosts is Martha's own daughter.

Take Alexis Stewart.  (Please!) She and her friend spend half an hour sniggering at one of the most successful women in business of all time. And there are upcoming episodes! Lemme tell you, if I were poking fun at my mom in public, she'd probably slap me into the middle of next week. (At least, that was the threat I heard when I was twelve.) And I'd deserve it! We may be more enlightened today, but damn, I might do the same thing to my own daughters if they treated me like dirt--even if only on a cable tv set so cheap they'd look like warmed-up cadavers.

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Yeah, mother-daughter relationships are fraught with difficulties. For a few years, you cling to your mother's leg with fingers that are stiff with fear of losing her.  Then suddenly she's the most boring, unfeeling being on the planet. You can't get far enough away from her, and if you must exchange words, it's done with a lot of eye rolling on the part of the mouthy teenager, and seething rage on her side of things.

But finally you're twenty-one, and she regains all the IQ points she misplaced for a decade.  Maybe she's even morphed into friend material. When you finally grow up, she's the one person you can phone in any situation just to get some support--when you've got a headcold or a problem at work and especially when your own teenagers are giving you a hard time. There's nobody like your mother to give you an atta-girl and a kick in the pants--all delivered with a laugh, of course.

Hey, I know not all mothers and daughters survive the whole growing up thing. I've been lucky that my mother and I are very close (we talk by phone nearly every day) and my own daughters are my favorite people in the whole world. But there are plenty of smart, emotionally intelligent mothers and daughters who suffer for years and finally give up on each other. My point is?--They knew when to walk away, not continue acting as if they're thirteen.

What's Martha supposed to do? Give her kid a public smackdown? Martha already has the reputation for being a little---let's go with "chilly," shall we? Denying little Alexis her shot at fame and fortune with this crappy show would make Martha look like the cold, withholding, egocentric person she's reported to be, right? So she's got to shut up and take her medicine from her own idiotic kid. She's even plugging Whatever, Martha on her own website. Surely this can't be a case of "any publicity is good publicity," but a matter of "whatever you want to do, honey, I stand behind you 100%."

I always thought one cardinal rule of marriage was never to say something derogatory about your spouse in front of others. (You can make fun of his nose hair all you like in private, but don't bring it up in front of the neighbors.) If you make a rude remark about your husband at a cocktail party, though, be prepared for people to back away as if you let fly with a bodily noise. It just isn't done.  Likewise, if you say something unkind about a family member, don't be surprised if you get bounced out of the will.  (Which is a joke in my family that isn't entirely a joke.) Yukking it up over Aunt Jo's mustache while she's standing in the same room is going to get you into trouble--like a lemon pie in the face at the family picnic.

But what's worst of all has to be cracking wise about your mom--the woman who carried you around for nine months, (and endured 36 hours of labor, if you're my mother) and changed your diapers, cleaned up your vomit and sat through nine performances of The Sound of Music  (better known in my family as The Sound of Mucus) when you were in the back row of the chorus with most of your face obscured by a nun's wimple.

Turns out, these days teenagers are liking their parents more than ever before. Hey, I enjoyed socializing with the friends of my daughters when they were in high school---and I still do.  And nobody was rude to anybody during the exchange. But I guess Alexis Stewart hasn't gotten the memo.

Maybe we should take up a collection to get her some therapy.

Or not. Turns out Alexis is undergoing fertility treatments so she can have a child of her own. 

Here's hoping it's a daughter.         Go to fullsize image

September 23, 2008

Racial Newspeak

Racial Newspeak

By Sarah

I am so grateful to Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief (and McCain would-be staffer) Ron Fournier for crafting prejudice in such a delightful light. In a story circulated widely on a slow news day, Sunday, (one can read only so much about the economy tanking), Fournier described racists not as, well, racists, but as people with "deep racial misgivings."

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

It's so much more palatable to think of bigots as hand-wringing ponderers, isn't it? Kind of makes the KuKu_klux_clan Klux Clan look like the ladies church auxiliary, clucking their tongues under their white hoods.

By the way, "misgivings," when I checked the dictionary, means "doubts or suspicions especially concerning a future event." So I have no idea what Fournier was thinking when he used it - except maybe he was trying to normalize racism by making it seem socially acceptable. You might have "misgivings" about the elementary school erecting a potentially dangerous rock-climbing wall. Or you might have "misgivings" that an African-American neighbor will break into your house and steal your TV. It's all the same. Just simple concern. No biggie.

(I must pause here to raise the issue of why a poll about whites' perceptions of blacks would start with a lede claiming Obama might lose the election, even though the same poll results - not included in the story - showed Obama was four percentage points above McCain. Could it be because Fournier once considered taking a job with McCain in a senior position after he was approached by the campaign this summer? (Campaigns do not offer jobs to reporters they don't like.) He also once wrote a piece cautioning Obama to watch his "arrogance." And then there's his cushy relationship with Dark World Underlord Karl Rove, in which he wrote to Rove: "The Lord creates men and women like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight." Prior to that, he wrote Rove, “Karl, you might think the media are liberal, but you can trust me. And give me access and return my emails. Because I’m on your side.” And this from an "objective" reporter.)

Chevy_richard I have serious misgivings about this poll, especially since the questions, statistical model (they interviewed only whites) and terminology are so backward one wonders if it was done while Miss Jane Pittman was bravely sipping from the "whites only" fountain. Gone was the more progressive term African Americans, in was the basic Black. And the list of questions reminded me of the classic Saturday Night Live skit when Chevy Chase interviews Richard Pryor for a janitorial job, choosing a "word association" test that nearly costs Chevy his neck.

Over 2,000 white independent, Republican and Democrat voters were asked to rate blacks according to various stereotypes, starting with friendly, determined and law-abiding (ahem), moving swiftly to "violent, boastful, complaining, lazy and, irresponsible." Not that many whites thought blacks were lazy and irresponsible, though they did find them to be good neighbors. Friendly, not so much. It's a mystery why these enlightened surveyors didn't poll their subjects about "dancing" or "basketball finesse."

Look, I don't know who really did this survey or what backwater hell hole they found these racists. (If some pollster had asked me if I thought blacks were lazy, I would have told him/her to fuck off.) That's not the point of my blog. The point is that anyone who finds someone of a different race to be blanketly negative is a racist. Pure and simple. They are NOT people with deep-racial misgivings. Call it what it is, for heaven sakes.

Perhaps I'm a bit testy because, like many of you devoted, well-educated readers, I'm getting tired of politicians twisting the English language. The word "lie" apparently is now too frightening for various Hansel_and_gretel legal teams and, as such, has been replaced with the vaguer "misled." As in George Bush "misled" Congress about his reasons for going to war in Iraq. Makes it sound like he stupidly scattered bread crumbs in the forest and aimlessly directed Gretel to the wicked witch's house.

More recently, John McCain declared the fundamentals of the economy were still strong - a statement I understood to mean the system and principles. Nope. Turns out the fundamentals are the "workers" and that to criticize them is to be un-American.

1984 What we've got here is Orwellian Newspeak, the act of flipping positive words "liberty" and "freedom" into negative - "crime think." And vice versa. It's becoming way too common - and way too dangerous - for our souls.

I remember the first time I heard the phrase "collateral damage." Until then, collateral damage was what you got when a tree fell on your garage during a lightening storm. Who knew it meant dead innocent women, children and men. Now when I hear collateral damage it goes in one ear and out the other. Oh, yeah. Dead civilians. Whatever.

And misleading Congress isn't an impeachable offense, but lying is. Funny, the difference a few letters make when it comes to the Constitution.

I'm sure there are more examples of Newspeak out there, but I can't quite think of them now. I'm too busy calling the Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll at 212-621-1610 and emailing her at [email protected] to tell her about my deep-seated misgivings about Fournier's bias. And I mean that exactly as it sounds.

Sarah

P.S. Since this story broke on Sunday, it has been entirely rewritten by AP writer Charles Babington to remove the Obama reference until the fourth graph and then posting a milquetoast: One result is that Barack Obama's path to the presidency is steeper than it would be if he were white.

Quite a contrast to the original story here.

September 22, 2008

Spermicide and Other Beauty Secrets by Lisa Daily

I was wracking my brain for some clever story to share with all of you, and I could not stop flashing back to an early episode of the Oprah show I watched in my teens: A very attractive woman in her forties claimed the secret to keeping her model-perfect skin so smooth, youthful and beautiful was to slather it with a big 'ol glob of spermicide.

Yes.  Every night before she went to bed, she put spermicide on her face.

On purpose.

I've often wondered how many PTA moms across the Midwest added Gynol to the grocery list that afternoon with giddy hopes they might have stumbled across the fountain of youth.

And although I've never put contraceptive products anywhere but their intended destination, that particular beauty tip has stayed in my memory, stuck there like the theme song from Gilligan's Island or all six verb tenses for "burp" in German.

The weirdest thing I've ever done for beauty was purchasing a small contraption for 19.95 from a late night TV offer, guaranteed to rid me of turkey neck for the rest of my natural life.

The before and after pictures were certainly convincing. It was almost too good to be true.

As double chins tend to run in my family, I scrambled to snag my credit card, and called it in to the helpful operator standing by.

A few weeks later the miracle of science arrived via UPS, and I eagerly tore open the box.

It looked a little bit like a cross between a diaphragm and that orthodontic headgear so popular back in the early 80s.  Basically, it was an elliptical machine for your face. 

I put it in my mouth and started making the chewing motion required to give me the sharp, lovely jawline I'd always desired.  Five minutes later, my jaw ached.  I looked at the fine print, and learned that in order to obtain the desired results, I'd need to be chomping away at that thing for two hours a day.

I tossed the wretched thing in the trash and made a vow to hold my head up high, and not worry about such things.  (Also, any good photographer will tell you that if you hold your head up, multiple chins are less obvious.  Isn't that marvelous?  Good self esteem AND good photos!)  I also decided that if I ever hit more than three chins, I could always just wear a scarf a la Hepburn.  Or a burka.  Or a lot of turtlenecks.

Or just, you know, just give in to it, and tie a big fuschia bow around my neck to draw attention to my spectacular chins.


 

So far, I'm holding at 1 1/2.

And dreaming of the day when double chins are as revered as Double Ds.

What strange things have you done in the pursuit of beauty?

Lisa

September 21, 2008

Clothes and the Woman

Clothes and the Woman

by guest blogger Rhys Bowen, author of three award-winning mystery series including Her Royal Spyness the delightful and newly released A Royal Pain.

They say that clothes make the man, or the woman in this case. Well, at this moment clothes are making my life a misery.

When I became a full time writer, one of the attractive features of my lifestyle was that I didn't have to get dressed in the morning. I could work in my sweats or my pjs. I even remember, during my TV days, having a conference call with the head of NBC drama and the set in the Caribbean with me wearing baby doll pajamas and a flannel robe. Thank God the video phone hadn't been invented.

But when I became a mystery writer I discovered that I was no longer going to be allowed to live like a slob. I was expected to visit bookstores and libraries and go to conventions and look like a writer. In short, I had to create a persona for myself. So the question arose, who am I? I wasn't quite sure. For years I had been a mom and a person who wrote in her sweats and pjs. Except for a few days each year when I put on my good black suit and went to visit my agent and editor.

At my first mystery conventions I noticed that many of the male writers had their persona down pat. You could spot them at the bar, with their beards and their black leather jackets or rugged-looking sweaters and they might as well have had the words "Hardboiled writer" tattooed across their brows. But it wasn't quite as easy for me. I guess I want to look elegant---not to mention royal.

Ah, there's the problem. Rhys Bowen and her current sleuth, the penniless royal Lady Georgie, have a lot in common. And one of the things is that clothes are our enemies. They let us down when we most need them. I try to breeze through a revolving door, looking like a successful writer and my scarf or my skirt get trapped in said door, needing a doorman, two bellhops and various guests to extricate me. I once crossed the foyer of an expensive hotel, trying to look as if I stayed there every day, and got my heel stuck in the cork flooring. And I really did have Georgie's brief and disastrous modeling career in my youth, when I was given a garment to put on and put both legs into half a pair of culottes. I only realized this when I tried to totter down the runway, thinking how tight the skirt was, and noticed something flapping behind me.

So now touring for A Royal Pain, during which I host royal soirees, and I'm anxious. What can I wear that looks royal and won't let me down? No scarves to trail, no heels to get caught, that's for sure. I went to Houston in July. What wasn't going to look like a crumpled rag in seconds, I wondered? I had to wear skirts, of royal-looking summer variety. The kind that need ironing, and I don't iron, at least not well. My mother was a champion ironer. She even ironed my father's underpants. I didn't inherit that talent.

And I have to carry a hat for these royal tea parties. How does one carry a hat unsquashed? Those real royals have a lady in waiting in attendance with emergency supplies. I could use one, for the times I am about to sip my airline coffee and we hit turbulence or spill ketchup down my white skirt.  Any volunteers?

I guess I'll stick to water on planes and look fashionably crumpled.

Rhys Bowen is the guest of honor at Left Coast Crime 2009 also blogs with The Lady Killers! Go to fullsize image