« September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

30 posts from October 2008

October 31, 2008

Halloween

Halloween

 Guest Blogger and Man of the Blog Will Graham

Halloween. 

Blog sexy_costumes

It used to be a holiday that everyone looked forward to.  Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties (trust me, the waitresses at a club I used to go to in Miami took Halloween seriously, and they did very well tip wise every Halloween night…but I digress.)

 Children were encouraged to be creative, to let their imaginations run wild.  Costumes were works of art, with months of planning and work put into them.  Witches and pirates, monsters and maidens, princes and princesses roamed the streets in absolute safety, pretending to scare and be scared, lugging home approximately three tons of boodle, swag, loot, and stuff at the end of the evening.

 Somewhere along the lines, things changed.

Stories of  razor blades in apples began to spread and take hold.  Candy tampered with everything from needles to cyanide.  Rumors of neighborhood houses where children went in, and never came out.  Pranks that began as silly stuff, such as overturning garbage cans, degenerated into outright vandalism with broken windows and destroyed property.

Then came the 1970’s…

Blog halloween-banned When things got really weird.  Seriously so.  The dawning of Political Correctness.  The Liberal Left telling us Halloween was bad, it was pagan, it was worshipping the Devil.  The game Dungeons and Dragons was banned from an entire supermarket chain in Florida because one, ONE, woman complained about it, told the manager it was worshipping the Devil, encouraging children to move to the Dark Side. 

Now we have the 1980’s…

Immigrants coming to the US disdaining American holidays, and companies going along with it.  When I was at a Major Oil Consortium, one member of my team came to me in tears when a customer had gotten extremely ugly with her because we did not deliver on July 4th.  I contacted the customer personally, explained the telephone rep was correct, and we would get his gasoline to him first thing the morning of the 5th.  He told me in no uncertain terms that the Fourth of July was a stupid holiday, it was not celebrated in his home country, he saw no sense to it, and we needed to keep the refinery open just for him, just in case he needed anything.  I tactfully (this was back when I believed in tact) pointed out he wasn’t in his country, he was in America now, and should respect American traditions.  He cursed me in some foreign language (something about my mother and a goat, or a camel; to this day I'm not sure), went to my boss’s boss’s boss, and raised Cain.  I got chewed out, told to be more tolerant of differences.  The end result was the tanker full of gasoline delivered on the 5th was refused because he didn’t do the business on the 4th he was hoping for.  I put a copy of the return ticket in an envelope and had it sent to the director who delivered the lecture on tolerance, asking if he would cover the costs from his budget.  Never heard back from him.  Don’t know why.

Here are the 1990’s…

Hoooooooooo boy.  Everything is bad for you.  Food, alcohol, breathing, sex, name it.  We should all eat tofu and soy, live to be two hundred years old while practicing abstinence.  ‘Just Say No’.  Tell a woman she looks nice, face a harassment suit.  (It was just last week I learned ‘harass’ was one word, but whatever.)  Deny someone a promotion they think they deserve, and face a discrimination action.  Whether they earned it or deserve it is immaterial.  If they want it, they should have it, and God help you if you deny it.  At the MOC until 1994, we moved offices once, and one particular woman had to take six weeks sick leave to “cope with the trauma” of moving.  Everyone was warned not to say anything to her when she returned, with dire consequences promised for anyone who dared say one word to her about it. 

And here was are, in a brand spanking new Millennium…

Blog simba Halloween is no more, it’s a ‘Fall Festival’.  Neutral, non-offensive.  Costumes are discouraged in schools.  Conversely, it’s a release date for movies that show murder as entertainment, torture as performance art.  Be sure the victims are female and pretty; torturing guys to death generates fuckall at the box office.  Make it last long and loud, with splashy (and not in a good way) special effects.  Church and/or school parties are the norm.  Children rarely go out on Halloween night anymore, and when they do, it’s more a military operation than a fun experience.  Last year, a little Simba came to the door, with his bag oddly empty.  I handed him a handful of Tootsie Rolls, he said ‘Thank you’ and bounced back to his parents.  Mom reached into the bag, pulled out what I’d given the Little Lion King, Dad whipped out a notepad, and wrote down “Five Tootsie Rolls” followed by our address.  The candy went into a separate bag, and as they walked to the house next door, I heard them discussing going to “the clinic” and having everything X-Rayed.

The deserted island with a huge NO TRESPASSING sign is looking better and better and better to me.  Maybe the Tarts would be kind enough to bring my mail once a year on a rotating basis….

October 30, 2008

Tony Hillerman, Man of Enchantment

Man of Enchantment

by Mary Lynn Reed, Friend o' the Tarts and tolerant wife of backblogger Tom Barclay, has written three books on state demographics, a collection of sewing and humor features, a near-future thriller, a shaggy-dog Near-Earth Orbit feghoot, not to mention a haunting 19th century sf story, set in the desert Southwest, just a bit under the influence of her aquaintance, the late Tony Hillerman.

                                Go to fullsize image 

People who come to New Mexico often say they're changed by the experience. The scenery is enchanting, true, but it's the spirits of the land who make the magic. Something ancient wafts in the air, rises out of the earth, chants in the wind. If this speaks to you though you've never visited New Mexico, there's a good chance Tony Hillerman connected you to those spirits from afar.

I spent most of the '70s at the University of New Mexico, first as a student, then as staff. Tony's social circle and mine often intersected. I fell under his personal spell before I fell for his literary magic. He was a raconteur of the highest order, with a knack for prising the intriguing from the mundane.

At more than one party, Tony saved me from social dis-ease--he would talk and I would listen. He spoke with an Oklahoma twang, not a Southwestern drawl. I didn't pay much attention then, but I recently discovered he was born and raised in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, ten miles from where all my children were born. I would like to say that's why I felt so comfortable in his presence, but so did everyone else (except the few pseudo-intellectuals pining for a Harvard accent.)

I met him right after Dancehall of the Dead was published, before all the awards were heaped upon him. Although he thrived on teaching journalism, he was enjoying the move to fiction in his personal writings. He had spent fourteen years as a newspaper man and likened the change to working in plastic instead of flint. But Tony could chip flint with the best. If you haven't read some of his non-fiction, I recommend you start with The Great Taos Bank Robbery Then move on to some of Hillerman's other works about New Mexico and the Southwest.

And please, read his memoir, Seldom Disappointed. Tony spun the tales of his life--as a child in Indian School, as a wounded soldier and war hero, as a gonzo journalist, as the bag man for a university president, as a husband and father of six kids (5 adopted) and as an author--with the same sure feel for words and setting he used with Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

Later on, I worked as a token Anglo for a Native American-owned consulting firm. I experienced aspects of the culture seen by few whites. The next few times we met, Hillerman and I would share our sense of prividege that we were allowed glimpses of the culture from the inside. We would wail in '70s outrage at colonialism and Anglo arrogance. But the bitching would soon turn bewitching as Tony told new stories--and he always had new stories. He grasped the world view held by the Navajo as few outsiders ever have. He could make the rest of us feel it, too, if only for a moment. Ultimately, he was named Special Friend of the Dineh in 1987 by the Navajo Nation for his honest, accurate portrayal of Navajo people and their culture.

Tony was one of those people that excelled whatever he chose to do, whether as a journalist, teacher, author or soldier in WWII, where he was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.  But he never read his own PR.

A life well lived and a man well loved.

October 29, 2008

Hell's Waiting Room

Hell’s Waiting Room

By Elaine Viets

Magazines old enough to vote. Uncomfortable chairs. The company of other disease-ridden strangers – all of them wheezing, sneezing, sniffling, scratching and snerching. Ah, the joys of doctors’ waiting rooms.

Now there’s a new delight – the medical lecture.

Way too many doctors’ waiting rooms now have special TV programs delivering lectures about how to cook heart-healthy food, avoid disease, ask for new (legal) drugs, and other uplifting information I’d rather not know. We patients have to watch this loathsome stuff while stuck in the waiting room. The folks who deliver it are insufferably healthy and cheerful as they explain how you’re shortening your life. Never mind that time seems twice as long in a doctor’s waiting room.

I’m almost lonesome for Jerry Springer.

We’re entering the flu and cold season, so more of us will be waiting.

Many doctors cannot run their offices on time – and we pay for it. I have a remedy for TPS – Trapped Patient Syndrome. My anti-TPS measures will entertain the patients and make money for the doctors. Here are a few suggestions:

(1) Issue waiting line tickets, like major attractions.

Some doctors are incurably late. Under this plan, a receptionist would greet the patient at the door, take your critical information, empty your wallet, then say, "Doctor Feelgood is running forty minutes late, Ms. Viets. We’re serving patient number 712. Your number is 748. Be back here at 10:30 for your 9 o’clock appointment."

I would be free to take books back to the library, pick up my dry cleaning, run to the supermarket, and still make my appointment, instead of sitting in medical limbo.

(2) Replace some waiting room chairs with exercise bikes and treadmills.

I’d rather ride an exercise bike than listlessly leaf through outdated Reader's Digests while sitting in an orange plastic chair. If the doc was running late, I’d have my workout done before I left the waiting room. Since the doc usually says I need more exercise, we’d both be happy.

Regular chairs would be available for patients who feel dragging themselves to the doctor’s office is enough of a workout.

(3) Serve food and booze.

Don’t show me how to cook wild salmon. I’m a lousy cook. Sell it as an eat-in or take-out option. Have a chef on duty in Examining Room 6. Remove those dusty plastic plants and create a small food court.

For those of us who prefer digging our graves with our teeth, serve fried chicken, chocolate cream pie, cookies and other artery-clogging delights. At least we’d die happy.

A stiff drink should be available for patients expecting bad news. Remember, red wine is good for the heart.

The doctors would get a percentage of food sales.

(4) Sell clothes, purses, shoes, watches, jewelry and other consumer goods.

Traveling sales people could wander through the waiting room, showing their wares. We could do our holiday shopping while waiting for the doctors. Or, the doctors could move their offices out of those dreary medical buildings that always smell of antiseptic into a cheery mall, and issue tickets so we could shop before we dropped on an examining table (see suggestion 1).

Again, doctors would get a cut of the sales.

(5) Make chair massages available to patients.

For a small fee (not covered by insurance), patients could have ten, fifteen, or half-hour chair massages to get them through the tense business of waiting for the doctor. This would result in improved blood pressure, better heart rates, and less snapping at the nurses.

Again, doctors would get a small cut of the fees.

To make the waiting experience more enjoyable, patients would get Frequent Patient Cards. Rack up a certain number of hours in the waiting rooms, and they would be eligible for a free massage, a wild salmon dinner or a bottle of wine.

(6) Book signings.

We authors could sign our books while we waited. I promise our books are more exciting than the August Field & Stream.

We might even make enough money to pay our doctor bills.

October 28, 2008

Pretty, Pretty Princess Palin

Pretty, Pretty Princess Palin   

By Sarah

Matt Damon was close, though a little off, when he described the soar of Wasilla beauty queen/mayor Princess diariesSarah Palin to vice presidential wannabe as a Disney movie. It's not just a Disney movie - it's a Meg Cabot novel brought to the big, big screen.

And I, for one, love it.

As with any good chicklit flick worth its stilettos, the story of Sarah Palin involves a dramatic makeover and who among us (men included) aren't suckers for the magic of lipstick and a well-cut bodice. Richard Gere gaped when Julia Roberts emerged as a prostitute turned princess with the help of the right couture. Rex Harrison drooled over his recreated Audrey Hepburn. Even Gilligan was floored when Maryann dressed up like Ginger.(Or was that vice versa?)

Anyway, men, not women, were the target audience when McCain's campaign spent more on Palin's makeup artist and wardrobe than on his foreign policy adviser and twice her husband's annual salary combined. (How does that feel, Todd?) Because, trust me, we women saw right through her.

I, a rural Wal-Mart shopper (please, no lectures, we've been over this before), was looking forward to what the star representative of my economic class/gender would wear for her debut. J.C. Penney's upscale Worthington suitWorthingon line has many fine suits all in easy-to-care, wrinkle-free (great for travel!) polyester. So you can imagine how confused I was when I turned into Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention and saw the gorgeous champagne silk shantung Valentino jacket. How did I miss that choice number in the Penney catalog?

Ditto for the hair and skin. As a woman who beats Palin by only two years, I cannot get my hair that shiny, not even with Suave Vibrant Shine. And Maybelline on those wrinkles? No sirree. There was some serious coverage there. It smacked of untrustworthy French.

Don't even get me started on those shoes. Naughty Monkey? I don't think they sell those at the Wasilla Payless. Then, come to find out, they weren't Penney, Payless and Maybelline. It was Neiman Marcus and Saks. Ha, ha. Joke's on me!

So were the $150,000 for clothes and the $22,800 for makeup worth the grief? Need you even ask?

Palin penneyLook, here's the before picture of Palin. I swear I saw this at Target or, maybe, Kohl's. The pink sweater, the puny string of freshwater pearls, the hideous floral jacket that looks like the smock your mother's hairdresser wears. Who does this Palin think she is, a nurse in maternity?

And now, post makeover. Much, much better. Smart royal blue jacket, slimming Palin after black pencil skirt. A touch of Jackie Kennedy in those buttons. I love her like this. I'd love me like this, too.

What I don't get, though, is the outrage. This woman has Cindy "$25,000 necklace" McCain by her side. Have some mercy, people.

So what that it was RNC money. If there's one thing I think we can agree on in this campaign, it's that Republicans have money. And not Obama money, either, no dribbles of student donations and dollar bills from old lady's purses. We're talking serious cash, cash that's used to being exchanged at places like Saks. Cash like Cindy McCain burns to light her...Well, I'm sure she doesn't do THAT anymore.

Oh, wait. Did you think Sarah was a real candidate with a real message about helping out the little guy and that's why you're upset? Puhleeze. This woman's for show. She's the Vanna White of the McCain campaign. He's an ugly little wizened troll, but she's easy on the eye, especially when she turns those phrases of hate. I'd like a vowel, Sarah. U.

And just in case McCain/Palin does win, she'll be in good company. Everyone knows that to be royal   Pretty pretty princess you've got to look royal. Like the board game my daughter used to play when she was eight - Pretty, Pretty Princess. The one who gets the most necklaces, rings, bracelet and - finally - tiara (sigh) wins.

Guess we'll find out next Tuesday how those diamonds look on Obama, huh?

IT'S ALMOST OVER!!!

Sarah

PS. Just heard McCain is donating Sarah's new clothes to charity. I'm guessing there are gonna be some sweet finds in the Goodwills out in Ohio and Florida.

October 27, 2008

Who Moved My Buddha?

Who Moved My Buddha?

By Harley

 The clock is ticking.

 I’m not talking about the election. I’m talking about me and my endless tale of “I’m moving.” The packing started last winter, but I’m in the new house now and by my calculations, I have until Friday before time runs out. As Elaine said, “Harley, unopened boxes turn into furniture after one month. They become coffee tables, end tables, storage chests and other parts of the household. Beware.” She’s right. I feel it coming, the moment when I lay down the paintbrush and forget window treatments and return to regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

On one hand, I do want my life back, I want to exercise and get a pedicure and read a novel and sit down for five minutes without A. snoring; or B. jumping up to unpack just one more (okay, two more; okay, seven more) boxes. I want to carry lipstick and poetry in my purse rather than color samples, levels and those little metal thingies you stick in adjustable bookshelves, which always disappear and have to be replaced with tiny wadded-up pieces of paper.

 On the other hand, it’s been fun, painting walls blood red, living on cheap chocolate and strong caffeine. But the portal is closing and before it does I’m throwing myself into one last unpacking frenzy. Because I must find my Buddha.

 The Big Buddha. The wooden one. I hear you say, “But Harley, didn’t you mark your boxes?” Well, yes, I did. Back in March, in the early stages. But as Moving Day approached, I became unhinged. I was tenting for termites, selling one house, buying another, and preparing for divorce mediation, which happened four days after moving day and one day before jury duty.

 That was when the Angels of Mercy showed up. Cousin Beth from Boulder, Nancie the Gun Tart, and Nelly. Nelly is my Order-into-Chaos Associate (what my mother called the cleaning lady). This trio packed my house with a vengeance, and each had her own system of identification. So now I’m down to the last 89 boxes, many unmarked, others marked with heiroglyphics and/or Zen koans like “Ladre titchu” or “Merlin dude.” In one of those boxes lies Big Buddha. Where? Nesting with my son’s missing pajamas and the dog treats? The Faberge egg?

 For that matter, where’s Saint Joseph? On moving day I went digging for him in the backyard, as per the instructions sent by Backblogger Tom (“Give him a place of honor in the new home, and make a small donation to charity.”) But no Joe. Nancie the Gun Tart took over, unearthing half an acre, worms, one Cartier soupspoon and a Hot Wheels car before throwing in the trowel. Could St. Joe have transmuted himself into a spoon?

 It gets worse: also gone missing is my kitchen Shiva, the Hindu god that my friend Bertila brought me back from India last spring. I found the detachable penis, but where’s the rest of him?

 Fearing some spiritual conspiracy, I asked Nelly, who’s from El Salvador and is attuned to these things, if the new house felt okay to her. Nelly said yes, “ees beautiful, but so many mirrors in bedroom ees no good feng shui.” Great. Bad bedroom chi, and a boycott from three of the world’s great religions. And a race against time.

 But good news: yesterday I found a mezuzah in a box marked “office supplies” so my niece Leah came over and nailed it to the front door and said the Hebrew prayer over it, so . . . yippee! 88 boxes to go.

 Happy Monday.

Harley

 

October 26, 2008

Dee Dresses 1000 Homosexuals

Dee Dresses 1000 Homosexuals

by guest blogger Dee Deringer Piquette (aka backblogger Xena)

My name is Dee and I am a costume designer.

I am currently making costumes for an original play commissioned by the Adrienne Arshi Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, called "1000 Homosexuals."  It's described as a new comedy that recounts the story of Anita Bryant's 1977 crusade against gay rights in Miami-Dade County, written by Michael Yawney, produced and choreographed by Octavio Campos of Camposition, and directed by Sheldon Deckelbaum. It may be hard to describe those days of homophobia and the orange juice queen as a comedy, but it portrays Anita Bryant just the way she would want: as a "musical Joan of Arc battling a powerful and perverse gay mafia," to quote the publicity material. The play is a challenge--I have to dress the Guys and Anita through a zillion costume changes, plus create an ensemble of Dancing Penis Marionettes. In contrasting colors. Visible from the back row. But more about that later.

You may wonder how somebody becomes a costume designer. It's a gift you are born with, a combination of nature and nurture and art. My mother and grandmother sewed. My grandmother made all of her clothes and then my mother's costumes and clothes and then she and my mother made all of mine. I grew up dressed like a doll. I had sun suits and play clothes (think Sound of Music) and all that, but always looked adorable for kindergarten and church. We had mother/daughter dresses and even mother/daughter/father/son square dance outfits. So naturally, I started sewing when I was 6 or 7 and I started costuming with my Betsy McCall doll. A sweet-faced, normally proportioned girl with bangs and flip hair style and no boobs. She needed outfits! She needed to marry the little Dutch boy doll my grandmother brought back from Holland. The poor little Dutch girl, in her lace hat and wooden shoes, had to settle for sister of the groom and no new dress. Betsy was very fashionable. My mother and grandmother saved me scraps from our outfits so I could make her something to go with us, so we had mother/daughter/doll ensembles.

Fabric speaks to me.  I hung out at Burdines when I was a kid, like kids today cruise the mall, but it wasn't looking at the ready-made stuff. My mother and I would spend delicious Saturdays at Burdines looking at patterns and fabric and then having lunch at the Hibiscus Tea Room upstairs. We would buy three yards to make whatever we thought would be perfect for the design and then take it home. Sometimes it would sit on the fabric shelf and wait. One day we'd see it and say, "perfect for that pants suit" and down it would come and become a reality. My mother modeled for Burdines when she was younger, and I was on the Teen Board and did my share of modeling, too.

My father sold shoes at Burdines, and Christmas gifts at our house were shoe boxes with a pattern and fabric in it. Clothes were always an imaginative mix of style and color and occasion at my house. Birthday party invitations involved a trip to the fabric shelf and a look in the pattern box for the perfect dress. Making something out of nothing is amazing, even more so when you realize that nobody in the world had a dress that you made for yourself. I was always walking the red carpet.

So couple of weeks ago I was in Boston, driving through the Ted Williams Tunnel after renting a car at Logan, and my cell phone rang. A male voice said, "Hi, I'm Sheldon Deckelbaum and I'm directing 1000 Homosexuals and I want to talk to you about costuming it."  (I'm thinking: costuming 1000 gay men? I've done elephants. I've done an entire high school senior class in the Orange Bowl for a German soap commercial. I can do this, too.) "Sheldon, I'm in the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston looking for the 93 South exit. Can you call me back in say 10 minutes?"

He did call me back. And after spending 2 days at Logan trying to get on one cancelled flight after another (it was August and hurricane season) I finally returned to Miami and met with the production design team. They were impressed that I coudl be creative on a budget: my most recent budget miracle was creating a suit of armor for a community theater production, and I ended up cutting Styrofoam packaging trays into armor pieces and hammering them with a meat hammer for texture and spraying it with Rustoleum.  From beyond the footlights it looked like pewter.  They hired me.

Now before you start wondering if I can make the jump from Sir Rodney of Recycle suit of armor to costuming 1000 people, gay or not, I have to tell you that the 1000 part of the title refers to something else. You will have to see the play when we open on November 20th to learn what it is.

So it's on to the next step, which is to read the script and then let the research being. The play is set in 1977. I was 25 years old back then and into the whole "Saturday Night Fever" Bee Gee's music and dress thing. Most of my male friends were gay. Even the straight men wore very wide everything--wide collars, wide lapels, wide pants, wide ties. And there was no color off limits. Raspberry, pink and fuchsia were all over the place. Light blue polyester leisure suits and full sleeved print shiny shirts were very fashionable. I'd label them "Victims of Fashion," but they were too busy strutting their proud peacock selves to notice us women folk tee-heeing in the powder room.  So yes, I remember the 70's.

There are six men in the cast who play about 15 parts each with super fast costume changes in this production. Talk about a challenge. The Village People crusing' bar types, drag queens and makeup artist fairies are definitely going to be fun but not everybody is a caricature. Time to re-visit the photos, movies and pattern books from then. I'm going to be using a lot of black vinyl leather and I'm going to need a bigger sewing room.

The Anita Bryant character, however, is something else. She was very conservative and very conscious of her image. She was the image of wholesomeness. Former beauty queen, recording artist, wife and mother. Baptist Sunday school teacher and lest we forget the Florida Citrus Commission's spokesmodel on top of it all. Who of us boomers out there cannot sing "Come to the Florida sunshine tree" or remember their slogan, "A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine?" I am recreating some of her album cover dresses. Very un-revealing white or teal fitted strapless numbers to the mid knee with a full sheer trapeze cape over it. They always had strategically placed trim around the bodice. Suggestive but not sexy. She didn't even show toe cleavage.

Costuming on a budget requires being on a first-name basis with Goodwill and flea markets. I am the queen of the thrift stores. If I can't find it there then I'll make it but I can usually find it. I need wide collared men's clothes. Sure, I could go into a store that carries vintage clothing and drop $1000, but it would not be what I personally had thought of in my mind. I am sure they do not have pastel fairy costumes with attached tool belts, for example. And the days of "Let's put on a show--my mom can make the costumes" are over, honey!

There are some construction issues in this play also. I had to create a bunch of marionettes in the form of--well--"Dancing Penises." They have to . . . move . . . realistically, so certain parts need more . . . heft . . . and I filled those parts with rice. My favorite is the one I made out of leftover Dorothy dress blue gingham check fabric from The Wixard of Oz. Very appropriate. Another one is red with silver foil Disco hearts, and one is tie dye crushed velvet panne. The actors strap them on and then use a wooden dowel rod control with strings to maneuver them. I am still laughing. Then there is what I refer to as the QUAD choir robe for a mock Baptist choir--a choir robe that fits four boys at once, with eight arm holes. 

Blog xena I can make anything.

And as I told you, the changes are FAST! This adds another complication to your design. It cannot be a three piece suit with a tie. It needs to be 1-2-3 back out on stage or in the case of Anita--a 1-2-3 costume change on stage. She never leaves. I told you costume designing was a challenge. It is a collective creative juice (pun intended) mix between what the author, the producer, the director and the costumer envision the character to project to the audience visually. It's like watching YouTube without the sound on. The costumes have to go with the direction the play is going in, or the audience gets confused. Unless you're costuming "Oh, Calcutta" it is an important part of the theater process. I have solved the quick-change problem by sewing all the pieces together and Velcro-ing it up the front. A shirt and jacket and tie take 30 seconds to put on. They put their arms through the sleeves, tuck in the shirt tail and close the front. Tah-dah!

So that is my current project. I know Halloween is coming up and some of you are ready and some of you are still wondering what you'll dress up as if at all. I'm making a moose head with styrofoam meat tray antlers to go with the boss's Palin costume. Betsy is going as a Bride. What are you wearing? If you're hard up for ideas, give me a call. I'm Dee, and I design costumes.

Let's Get Mammary for a Moment

Let’s Get Mammary for a Moment

By Guest Blogger Maryann Mercer

We are so fortunate to have such a great community here at TLC. One of the big benefits is that we have access to terrific guest blogs. Today, our own Maryann Mercer provided a wonderful one on a subject that may be educational - but at the very least it's entertaining, and we can't wait to hear your comments.

As a lot of you know, I work in retail. In a big box bookstore to be exact. Because the store is a public place, all sorts of interesting, intriguing, and sometimes questionable events happen there. I’m not talking about author signings, Harry Potter or Stephenie Meyer parties, or even the holiday sales. I’m talking about open air breast-feeding and other parently duties.

I was restocking magazines one day (lots of new car mags, especially imports, which are so crucial to the farmers in this area who have no hay for their cows due to flooding) when one of our regular customers came up to me with an issue. This customer is, female, a little younger than I am (who isn’t?) but still grew up during the 60’s and ‘70’s when free love and all that other stuff was floating around, so I was surprised when her issue turned out to be a parent changing his baby on one of the overstuffed chairs in the alcove. Number 2 and well as Number 1. He then proceeded to the café where he pitched the soiled and no doubt smelly disposable in the nearest waste container before heading back to the alcove. I assume his wife was with him since he wasn’t carrying said baby. She also mentioned to me that several times she’s seen women breast-feeding their children in the café, some discreetly, others more like as she put it “Whipped the boob out and let the kid go for it”.

Her point was that perhaps we as retailers needed to mention these issues to the customers in question because their actions might be offensive to others, not to mention unsanitary. As she said, “Would you want to sit in a chair where a baby’s butt had been wiped?”

It isn’t as though the store doesn’t have changing stations and chairs in both bathrooms so that the parents can take care of their children’s needs, so here’s my question. When you’re out browsing, eating, or otherwise doing all the leisure things most of us do, are either of these “issues” really an issue for you? Are there times or situations where neither action should take place? Do we just ignore it and hope someone else mentions it to them? Actually that’s more than one question and I know times have changed, but, well, that’s the thing… would you want your kids to see someone else’s boobs, or the remains of the noon feeding, while they’re eating a Happy Meal? Would you want to buy a sheet set that was used as a changing table?

Of course, there are some who would tell you it’s all perfectly natural; that Europeans have been doing it for centuries (well so have we, just indoors and at home) and formula is no substitute, even for a few hours. (Breast pumps anyone?) But isn’t it also natural to consider the feelings (and the sanitation) of those around you as well? How DO you tell a possibly stressed out parent that overstuffed chairs and poop filled diapers are not suitable mates? Or that it might be more private to breastfeed in the ladies’? Or do you tell them at all?

October 24, 2008

Scary Movies

Scary Movies

By Kathy Sweeney


Blog scary movies It's that time of year.  Halloween is next week. Haunted Houses are cropping up everywhere.  Our local amusement park even has something called "Fright Nights" where they turn some of the rides into haunted houses, have scary clowns jump out at random, and fill the place with fog machines.

Obviously, people enjoy scary stuff.

Me?  Not so much.  I won't bore you with the reasons.  Suffice it to say that it has to do with Control Issues (who me?!) and some bad experiences in the past.

Few things scare me in real life.  Lots of things make me uncomfortable - rats, for example.  Couldn't even watch Ratatouille - which was a cute movie, but let's be real, kids - there were RATS in the KITCHEN, okay?  That is gross.  I don't care if they were the cleanest rats in the history of rats.  They could have been an army of Monk-like rats (the TV Monk, not the brown robes and tonsure monks) and it would still be the creep of creepiness.

But creepy is not the same as scary.  I can't handle really scary movies - and I don't just mean Jason of the hockey mask and that guy with the knife fingers.  I mean "Silence of the Lambs" and "The Exorcist" too.  Psychological stuff is just as scary as being chased in the dark by a freak-a-zoid with a mad dog/car.

Now there are these torture porn movies - I've never seen one, but the previews alone scare the living daylights out of me.  Some whack-mutant with a clown mask? People stuck in tanning beds and with spikes through their eyeballs?  No thank you.

I don't even know enough about them to give you titles - I'm counting on you guys to tell me.  "Sawface"?  "Hotel Suicide Pact"?  "Scream Your Nuts Off, IV"?  "I'd Love to Stay and Chat, But I Have to Gouge Out Your Eyeballs With a Melon Baller First: The Return of the Kitchen Gadget Killer"?Blog scary postman
It would be funny if it weren't terrifying to me.  I get the adrenaline rush thing - I love roller coasters - but messing with my head is different.  I guess I'm chicken.  I don't like people trying to manipulate me, even if it's for my own entertainment.  Hell, I don't even like movies with too much suspense.  I'm one of those people who, when I ask you "How does it end?"  I really mean it.  I mean "Tell me NOW, I don't WANT to be surprised.  I KNOW there is something weird about Samuel L. Jackson.  Just TELL ME!" (emphasis added here and in real life too.)

I also don't like War movies (I know, I could learn a lot, but I don't want to); prison movies (I don't care how wonderful it is - someone is going to get anally raped and I don't want to see that - even in a fuzzy flashback sequence.  Yes, I realize that dying without seeing Shawshank may be one of my greatest regrets.  I'm willing to live with it).  I don't like KidJep movies - or books, for that matter.  Too close to home, that one.

Basically, when I go to the movies, I want to be entertained.  For me, that means laughing.  Maybe some singing and dancing.  Case in point:  when "The Dark Knight" came out, everyone went to see it but Mary Alice and me.  We went to see "Mamma Mia".  It was faaab-u-lous.

Okay, I made it through the whole blog with no politics, so bear with me for a couple of sentences, okay? We are going to see "W" on Saturday.  I realize this violates my no scary movies rule.  Because it doesn't get much scarier than what's been happening in this country.  If only it didn't violate my No Prison movies rule. Just saying.  Just in case, I am going to have a couple of Mango Mojitos before we go.  Maybe during too.

Now your turn, my TLC friends - do you like scary movies?  Maybe you can tell people about some. Clearly, I'm out of my league on this one.

And coming this weekend to TLC:

Saturday, we welcome TLC backblogger Maryann Mercer, who wants to talk Mammaries.
Sunday, check out some dancing penises!

October 23, 2008

Safe Haven

Safe Haven

by Nancy

When our girls were teenagers, we lived just over the hillside from our small town's humane society, and we often found abandoned dogs wandering in our back yard because their owners didn't want to pay the fee required when surrendering a pet to the pound.  (The largest numbers of dogs appeared when the college kids left campus to go home for the summer.)  Some dogs were hit by cars before they made it into the kennel. Others just disappeared.

The state of Nebraska is trying to make it easier on babies.

They have a new law in Nebraska that says anybody who can't cope with their kid can surrender the child at any hospital, and the baby will become a ward of the state.  This is what's called a Safe Haven law, and it was originally intended for young mothers who couldn't handle motherhood. It sounds a little Oliver Twist-y, but you could also call it a Moses law. Advocates claim this kind of law saves a lot of babies from very bad ends-- babies that might come from all socio-economic backgrounds. (Here, I could link you to a couple of news stories about newborns found in college dumpsters, but I won't. We also have a case here in Pennsylvania of a starved child found buried in a beer cooler, which I'm not going to talk about either because we'll all be mopping up our keyboards.)

What Nebraska didn't expect was how many people have been moved to give up children who aren't newborns. This guy, for instance, drove up to a hospital last month and dropped off nine of his ten children, ages 1 to 17. A widower, he was overwhelmed and "fell apart."

Okay, we've all been there--at the end of our ropes and feeling unable to cope another minute. Some of us take a walk to pull ourselves together. Or lock ourselves in the bathroom to scream for five minutes. Sometimes you call your mom or your next door neighbor to give you a break for an hour. Or you take a breather for a week and hope you come back saner. That's what frantic parents do now and then if they have resources, family and friends. It ain't that easy sometimes, however. I have the utmost sympathy for the Nebraska father. I'm sure he did the right thing for the kids. I mean, things could have gotten a lot worse for everyone if he hadn't taken action, no matter how humiliating for himself. He has since, by the way, asked a judge for visitation rights. 

Not long after he gave up his children, a mother from Detroit drove all the way to Omaha to abandon her 13-year-old son at the hospital.

Can you see where this is headed? Any parent who can't handle their teenager is thinking of filling up the gas tank and buying a map to Nebraska. And really, but for the Grace of God, can you blame them?

I'm thinking there just aren't enough resources for parents right now.  Thirty years ago when I was a teacher, we had a lot of options when a kid acted up in class.  We had professionals to call, places to send the problem case--even training for ourselves. Public schools once had support services for teenagers who needed more than 8 periods of classwork and a hot lunch. But money for such programs has gone the same way of funding for music lessons and chess clubs.  I live in an urban neighborhood that sits between a large public park and a senior high school.  During nice weather, we see dozens of teenagers strolling the streets, killing time until the school day is over. Why aren't they in school? Dozens of reasons. A big one is that most schools are happy to see their most exasperating students take the occasional walk . . . or drop out altogether. Let someone else handle them! We've got enough trouble! To hear many teachers tell it, it's hard enough keeping up with the paperwork generated by No Child Left Behind.

I don't mean to focus on teenagers. The Safe Haven law applies to elderly people, too---old folks whose families can't cope with their Alzheimers or incontinence or general orneriness.

Todd Landry, who runs Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services division of Children and Family Services, is feeling a little overwhelmed himself. He said, "We need to get back to the intent of the law.  The intent of the law was always the protection of newborns in immediate danger of being harmed."

Me, I'm thinking America needs to become a safe haven again. Our current Washington leaders have urged the private sector to step up to take care of such social problems as uncontrollable teens, elderly people who are too helpless to help themselves and women who have no clue how to care for an infant. I'm sure you can come up with other underserved populations. Your town, your church, your neighborhood may have good examples of helping programs that work. In my neighborhood, a woman has organized a kind of club for elderly, single African American men. They go fishing, take trips to the park, go bowling or simply hang out together for companionship they might not otherwise have. It's been a lifesaver for forgotten, isolated men. And here's a nice lady who's helping to mentor young girls to be good moms.  Gotta admire that kind of initiative.

But most communities need a kickstart from their leaders.

Funny how people like Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million in her will to take care of her dog and a trust fund of somewhere between 3 and 8 billion dollars (that's with a "B," folks) for the "care of dogs."  But how often do we see the same social conscience concerning people?

I'm hoping the coming election will change things from the top down.

October 22, 2008

Pet Perfection

Pet Perfection

By Elaine Viets

Elaine blog puppy The cart at the Galleria Mall was loaded with wire cages. Each had a kitten or puppy inside. Some cages had signs that said, "I’m adopted."

All the pets were quiet. Too quiet, as they say in the old movies.

Not a single kitten or puppy was yipping, yapping or meowing. They were moving, though. If I looked close, I could see them breathing.

Too bad they weren’t alive.

They were Perfect Petzzz, a new fad that makes the hair stand up on my neck. You can "adopt" the animal of your choice, from Alaskan Huskies to Yorkies. The pets come with a "certificate of adoption" like a Cabbage Patch doll. Check out   "Lifelike Puppies & Kittens That Actually Breathe!" the ad said. "These adorable pets offer a real pet ownership experience without the hassles and expense. Say goodbye to feedings and vet bills. Say hello to lots of love and cuddles."

Pet perfection does not come cheap. Perfect Petzzz cost from $29 to $50 on the Internet. They come with a pet tag, pet bed, a brush for their synthetic fur, an adoption certificate, a pet carrier and a D alkaline battery.  Check it out: http://www.perfectpetzzz.com.  

There’s nothing like cuddling up to a nice alkaline battery.

Perfect Petzzz are touted as ideal for people in dorms, ‘no-pets’ apartments and other animal-unfriendly living arrangements – as well as folks with allergies.

I like the idea of never cleaning another litter box. I’m sure dog owners would rather not walk their pets on rainy nights. But in exchange for the real hassles, we pet owners do get real love – a love that increases as dinner approaches.

Elaine blog kitten Perfect Petzzz has tried to make the animals as lifelike as possible.

"See, they also snore," the mall saleswoman said. She pressed the fake Rottweiler, and I heard a tiny noise, almost like a purr.

My cat snores, too, but she’s not as dainty as the pretend pup. She’s a registered, pedigreed Chartreux who snores like a wino in a flophouse. Her pedigreed nose is the perfect sound system.

Can you get real love from a fake creature?

I have my doubts, but I’d like to start my own line, the Stepford Petzzz. I’d add these features to enhance the "pet ownership experience."

(1) Food cry.

At mealtimes, real pets can raise havoc demanding dinner. Cats walk on my head, knock things off the bedside table and make noise until they are fed. At least with Stepford Petzzz, you can switch off the howls and go back to sleep.

(2) An embarrassing habit.

"I don’t know what got into him. He doesn’t usually do that." How often have you said that about your cat or dog? Even the best pets go bad when you want them to behave.

When we lived in Washington, we had Don’s boss over for dinner. Our elderly cat, Hodge, was at death’s door (and would go through it in a week). Hodge managed an arthritic leap to the dinner table to steal a chicken wing. Naturally, it was off the boss’s plate.

Then there was our cat Sylvie, with an appetite like a stoner. Our friend Barbara Parker came for a visit, and I noticed a black furry tail hanging out of her fashionably large purse. It was Sylvie. She’d crawled into the purse and eaten all of the biscuits Barbara kept for her dog Max.

(3) Automatic shedding mechanism.

Why miss out on the fun because you are allergic to pet hair?

The Stepford Petzzz will leave fluffs of hypo-allergenic hair under the end tables, on the chair seats and, just before the guests arrive, in the middle of the rug.

I’m sure you can suggest other features for a Stepford Petzzz. I think we’re on to something here at TLC – the cuddliest creature since the Pet Rock.