Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Leavin' On A Jet Plane

General observations about flying in America:
  • The TSA either offers their employees Starbucks-like customer relations training or really good drugs 'cuz I've never seen 'em so friendly.
  • Despite the air of incredible boredom between most travelling couples, it is actually a good thing to travel together. Lots of problem solving and chances to talk about stuff other than who's making dinner or how the crusty socks got under the bed.
  • Happiness is spelled E-X-I-T R-O-W
  • There are some weird-ass looking pieces of luggage out there. Today, I admired a faux leopard-print pillbox cosmetics case paired with a fuschia polyester carry-on -- toted by a middle aged man wearing a baseball hat.
  • I want to be the guy who drives the golf cart-like vehicle with the yellow light and siren who doesn't seem to be going anywhere or carrying anyone. One such driver appeared to be touring the length of the B terminal, offering bites of his dinner to co-workers. How can I get paid for that?
  • Why would anyone live in Atlanta? Even the passageway from the plane to the terminal was like a goddamned blast furnace -- at 9:30 PM!
  • For their endurance of air travel, we should give children one of two things: a gold medal or a tranquilizer. If you can't tell which child needs what, I'll decide.
  • I used to think showing TV shows on planes was weird, but it has a strange pacifying effect that makes you feel at home more than you probably want to admit.
  • The once proud career of flight attendant has devolved into being a glorified snack-bar attendant and trash collector.
  • The 8-pound fall issue of Vogue magazine only yields about 10 pages of interesting content, which can be easily torn out and the rest given to the flight attendant to throw away.
  • Airport food is a double-edged sword: it’s a slightly better alternative than the glorified Hot Pockets that now pass for a meal on airplanes, but you'll have to take out a second mortgage to pay for it.
  • My ass is getting way too big for the seats on the plane. Somebody better do something about that and it's NOT going to be me!
  • I am grateful that, in the face of shrinking pensions, slashed salaries, and poorer benefits, there are still pilots who care enough to get us there safely.
  • You can no longer get a pillow on any airline. Apparently, this is to halt the number of mid-air child asphyxiations by parents who have simply had it UP TO HERE!
Well, after an hour-long delay at a gate bustling with the youth of America under age 5 who have stayed up way past their bedtimes, our plane is ready to board. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Vacation

We're off to see family and friends in New York state for a week, with the centerpiece of the trip being the World Famous New York State Fair. Oh Boy!

Too many food and fun possibilities, so if you want to check it out, go to their website. In the meantime, we'll be flying Delta, so visit the links on Cyphering and SuperFrankenstein and we'll try to fill you in on our antics.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Jon Stewart For President

It was a wonderful evening of television. A very special Daily Show if you will.

Jon Stewart simply turned Christopher Hitchens over his knee, pulled his little panties down, and spanked his hairy bottom until it turned bright red. And he was as polite as could be.

I could try to re-create how articulate Jon was, but thankfully Crooks and Liars has video you can watch. He was incredibly well-informed and articulate. I don't think I've heard anyone on TV (reporter, foreign policy analyst, President) as well-informed about terrorism. I was truly thankful to see someone who could engage Hitchens in a debate that adequately reflected BOTH sides.

You have to watch this!

Via [Wonkette]

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Good News and Bad News

Take a minute to check our friend Kim's blog. She has the latest GREAT NEWS about coffee. Yes, I switched to green tea for a little while when I was doing some teeth whitening, but I'm back to my mother's milk -- coffeeeeeee! And it's a good thing!

Kim also has an update on our Puritanical government's lack of political will to allow the morning after pill to be sold in the U.S. in the foreseeable future. Sounds like the "God freaks" have our government by the short and curlies.

Stay awhile and read a few more entries. She's got some cool stuff to talk about.

The bad news...playwright August Wilson has been diagnosed with liver cancer that might allow him to live only six more months. Friends say they won't count him out too soon.

One of my fondest memories of living in New Haven was watching August Wilson write, write, and write at a cafe table in the middle of downtown. His dramatization of the African American experience throughout the 20th century ranks as one of the major accomplishments of the American theater.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Ignore It... Maybe It'll Go Away

There's a song in the musical The Wiz sung by the Wicked Witch that should become the new American national anthem. It's called "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News." We may have to live in this world, but by God, we don't want to HEAR about it...especially if it's gonna hurt!

The latest example is the lady in New Hampshire who complained that her doctor told her she was too fat. No doubt if he HADN'T told you and you dropped dead of a heart attack, someone in your family would have sued him for not warning you to drop a few pounds. But, really, she didn't know she was fat when she went in for the appointment? Come on...

Once I told my doctor I felt like I was "getting fat as a pig." She dismissed me with a wave and a "pshaw." Now, what I needed was for her to kick me in my ample behind, but instead she made me feel good about myself. What is the opposite of tough love? Just like the rest of America, I'm getting too fat and it might take one enormous "come to Jesus" meeting for us to wake up and smell the banana bread. So, I say to the New Hampshire Doc..."Thanks for keepin' it real!"

Let me assure you I, too, can avoid reality like nobody's business. Once, in a counseling session, my therapist told me I was "pain phobic." Even though she was absolutely right, I still want to know, who the hell isn't? I don't know a lot of people who look at grief, for example, and think to themselves, "Oh boy, here we go, let's jump into mourning with both feet and feel that sadness!" I've seen my mother nearly strip the stain off the kitchen cabinets in her effort to literally and figuratively wipe her feelings away in a cleaning frenzy.

But in the same way that rebound relationships can blur the memory of a bad break-up, distraction, too, can be useful -- God knows there is plenty available to us. The ancient Romans, in order to control the unemployed masses, gave them "bread and circuses" to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. In the early 1970s, Nixon expanded welfare funding to avoid more urban riots like those in Watts and Newark. Today, we have the internet, cable TV, pornography, I-pods, talk radio, video games, and NetFlix to fill our heads to bursting with anything BUT bad news. Hell, in Seattle, we even prefer coffee over sex, for God's sake. Anything to avoid that whole personal interaction thing, which might make us vulnerable to potential pain. A cup of coffee never hurt anyone's feelings and when you pair it with big pink frosted cookie, things even start looking up, by golly.

But denial rarely gets as arrogant as it did when Lance Armstrong took a bike ride with President Bush this week and never even mentioned Cindy Sheehan. "It never came up," he said, even though their route brought them very close to the Sheehan camp. Talk about missing an opportunity to use your bully pulpit for good. History's only seven-time Tour De France winner and you can't leverage that to encourage the President to show some respect to a mourning constituent? You can raise $50 million with one yellow plastic wrist bracelet, but when it comes to knocking some sense into that Crawford yahoo, well, you must be too busy. And you can't use the excuse that politics don't matter when you get the honor of meeting the President. Do you ever hear people bragging about meeting Herbert Hoover or Richard Nixon?

This line of thinking came to me while reading a brilling Tom Tomorrow cartoon about how Americans really don't want to think much about the reality of our invasion of Iraq. I'll let him speak for himself. Don't be afraid. Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, and take a minute to read it. You can take it. I believe in you.

click on cartoon to see a larger image

More Tom Tomorrow cartoons

Friday, August 26, 2005

Do You Have a "Girl Crush"?

The NY Times ran an article a few weeks ago about the phenomenon of the "girl crush" and I have been thinking about it a lot lately. Rather than a sexual attraction, the "girl crush" is really more of a very strong admiration that could lead to friendship.

I have been really lucky to have had some amazing women to look up to, both in my real life and fantasy life. Some led to long friendships, others broke up, and some influenced me so much, they changed the entire direction of my life.

From day one, I had a HUGE crush on my Mom (she was the coolest, prettiest Mom in the world). In high school: Kathy's creativity was an inspiration and her belly laugh cracked me up; Lanette was fiercely independent and bratty, which I could NEVER get away with; Teresa was beautiful, funny, and rebellious (she later went into the Air Force!).

In college, Becky was a GREAT actress and she loved to laugh. IN the "real world," Marion, Maryjo, and Marilyn all became mentors (what's with all the "M" names?). I followed Maryjo into the classroom as a teacher and found out how many students get crushes on you when you teach. I STILL get e-mail from former female students and I haven't taught in 4 years! I was inspired to start my new career from Marilyn and Marion is the editor's voice that I still carry in my head.

My girl crush on Carrie and the girls of Sex and the City (don't laugh) became part of my motivation to get out of my marriage and move to the big city. And when Natalie Cole recorded a tribute to her father back in the 1990s, all I wanted to do was sing jazz.

Currently, I have a total girl crush on my friend Laura, who is the MOST beautiful woman, she has no idea. Kasia, the make-up artist at Nordstrom is equally gorgeous. My crush on my friend Christy came from her GREAT sense of style, her boldness, and her sense of humor. Our crush turned into a friendship that I truly cherish.

In the realm of fantasy, there's Sarah Jessica Parker (cute body, can wear ANYTHING, incredible sense of style, smart, funny, kind); Queen Latifah (too beautiful, great confidence, love her voice); Annette Bening (always has a smile on her face and did you see Being Julia? She was frigging brilliant!); Hilary Clinton (smart as a whip and doesn't give her power away to anyone); Jane Fonda (she could have become a rich, whining brat, but she chose the hard path to self fullfillment and understanding, admittedly making mistakes along the way -- you have to see Coming Home); Kathy Griffin (she's brilliantly funny and balls-out bold); Rhonda and Iyanla the life coaches on Starting Over (they have learned the hard way how to become emotionally strong): Anjelina Jolie (great actress, incredible bone structure, love those adopted babies); Chita Rivera (still kickin', singing, looking great); and Marlo Thomas (is there a word for a female "mensch"?).

If I could go back in history, I would add Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan, Barbara Stanwyck, Audrey Hepburn, and plenty more.

I actually got to meet two of my fantasy girl crushes: actresses Gena Rowlands and Colleen Dewhurst. I never got past the sweaty palm stage, but they were two of the great moments in my life.

There's a lot you can tell about me from my crushes: I'm a child of the 70s, I'm liberal, I love theater, movies, music, politics, self improvement stuff, and a little fashion. It's all there in my cast of characters. The best part is to realize how much we owe to our "sisters" in the way we live our lives. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, "They make me want to be a better woman." Thanks, girls!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Shameless Plug III

My beloved has a post on Slate today. Go read it! It's hilarious!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Confessions of a Blog Whore

I just want to personally thank Pat Robertson.

Without him (and Hugo Chavez), I wouldn't have had a blog entry yesterday and I try to write something new every day (except on weekends when it's hit and miss). I mean, shit, Gawker, Defamer, and Wonkette take BOTH Saturday AND Sunday off!

But when you can't think of anything to blog about, things don't feel right. Either there's nothing going on in the world that interests you or you can't think of ANYTHING that captures your imagination. And that's not good. Life's way too interesting for that. Also, as Joel Achenbach wrote in Sunday's Washington Post, the blog has an appetite that MUST be satisfied. Like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, it cries, "FEED ME!"

So, here's the dirty little secret. As I became more panicked for a topic, I started craving attention. My statcounter numbers have been declining of desperation...I picked Pat Robertson. I looked at, saw which topic was getting the most hits, and I caved. Isn't that sick? So sick...

BUT THINGS COULD BE WORSE...when Parade Magazine claimed that 80,000 people start a blog EVERY DAY, My boyfriend said, "Yeah, but how many write about three entries and then never post again?". True, but even the most prolific bloggers can reach a "blog life crisis." Thankfully, there's a helpful pamphlet to offer assistance. Check it out.

The siren song of the blog is strong. Resist it at your own peril.

[Via Fried Rice Thoughts and Weighing On Your Mind]

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hugo Chavez for President of Everything!

Anyone who calls George W. Bush an asshole in public (in any language) gets my vote to be President of Everything. That's exactly what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did. And he's been saying pretty much the same thing in his message to the U.S. about Venezuela's oil. Instead of taking marching orders from the U.S., Chavez is going to decide the price and availability of his country's SUV juice. Good for him.

He was popularly elected once, followed by a failed coup attempt and a referendum for his recall (in which he also prevailed). Sounds like he's made some mistakes as well -- he tried to dump thousands of oil company workers for corruption but the courts slapped his hands and told him he couldn't. He works on behalf of the poor...boy, this guy sounds really scary. No wonder Pat Robertson wants to get rid of him.

Look, if I have to live through eight friggin years of W because he "won" two elections, Venezuela can sure as hell cope with a leader they elected TWICE (shit...they even had a chance to recall him -- I never got that!)

Time Magazine says Pat Robertson's comments might have actually helped Hugo. I agree. I never even heard of this guy before this week and now I think he's terrific. Thanks, Pat.

Pat Robertson's Foreign Policy

Life would be so much easier if we could just adopt Pat Robertson's foreign policy, which can be summed up in one simple sentence:


Simple. Direct. Easy to understand.

Skip Rumsfeld's wordsmithing. Forget Halliburton's profiteering. Bag the billions in U.S. tax money. Let's just cut to the heart of the matter. If we think you might have Communistic tendencies or that you might be oppressing your people, we're gonna kill ya'. Plain and simple. No questions. No debate. You're done.

You know, the Ayatollah Khomeini had a similar idea when dealing with Salman Rushdie. You write something that pisses us off, we're gonna get you. Tony Soprano deals with this stuff simply and easily every week on HBO. Send a couple of guys over and it's all taken care of.

Saves a lot of time, energy, and brain power.

Of course, Robertson's genius is no surprise to us Washington state voters. After all, he won our 1988 Republican Presidential Primary!

[via Reuters]

Monday, August 22, 2005

Labor Unions: The Ones What Brung Ya

You know that bumper sticker that says, "If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher"? Well, I've got a slogan of my own for this week as you start making plans for your Labor Day weekend:

"If You Have Time Off Work This Weekend, Thank a Labor Union"

It's remarkable how the lives of today's workers are different than those of a century ago -- not just in the nature of the work (back then, who could have dreamed of making a living sitting on your butt behind a computer all day?) but also in the relationship between workers and management.

In today's world, folks often prickle when the subject of labor unions comes up. Maybe they had a bad past experience (I know I did) or they've heard the negative labor headlines. But recent polls show that if they had a choice, 92% of all Americans wish they had the right to sit down with management and bargain the terms and conditions of their job.

That's what a union does. Plain and simple.

The other bit of bad press about unions comes from fear, I think. Collective power scares people, especially owners. It's amazing what can happen when folks join together for a common purpose. And when they ACT, it can get especially frightening for the powers that be. Collective action often involves confrontation and boy, do most of us hate that. The crankiest I have ever seen management was after some informational picketing ... just a few signs, for crying out loud. Perhaps it's what the signs symbolize that bothers them: their employees are figuring out what Flick, the beleaguered ant in the Pixar movie "A Bug's Life" discovers by the end of the story and he tells the evil grasshoppers:

"You need us more than we need you."

But the grasshoppers had it figured out first as their big boss explained:

"Those ants outnumber us a hundred to one
and if they ever figure that out,
our way of life as we know it is over."

That's what the workers of a hundred years ago figured out. They DID outnumber management and the bosses DID need them more than the workers needed the boss.

Those are dangerous ideas. And they led to a lot of shaking up of the world order.

Those workers were willing to be fired, to be beaten, and go on strike for things like the 40-hour week, the 8-hour day, a place at the bargaining table, and benefits like medical coverage and vacation days. If we had to, would we be willing to do the same?

Look, labor -- like any institution -- has its problems. You may have heard of a big group of folks who recently walked away from the AFL-CIO in order to get back to grass-roots organizing. Heck, only 13 percent of the country's workers even belong to a union (18 percent if you count government employees). Wherever you find a lot of humans, you will find controversy and conflict, but unions try every day to bring respect and dignity to workers who give their time, energy, and a good chunk of their lives to their employers -- what better cause can you think of?

At his retirement party, the crochety long-time shop teacher at my old junior high said his proudest career accomplishment was that he never joined the teacher's union. I imagine if he's still alive he's still enjoying the retirement benefits and medical insurance his union fought long and hard for (without the support of his union dues). And, if he hadn't retired before he was fired for his continued corporal punishment of students, the union would have made sure he was treated fairly if he had been disciplined.

If you don't belong to a union, at least remember the ones what brung ya to the party as you enjoy your Labor Day weekend.

If you want know more about the state of labor in the USA today, check out some fast facts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Like... did you know the average commute lasts about 24 minutes?
That 4.5 million Americans work at home?
That there are 6.5 million teachers?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hail the Media Heroes


"I didn't think the subject matter of Thursday's show was the kind of broadcast that I should be doing."
-- Larry King Live substitute host Bob Costas.

(Coverage of the BTK trial is) "a ghoulish exercise on the part of the news media," . . ."if ratings are the reason...we ought to be ashamed of ourselves."
-- Jack Cafferty, CNN host.

If the media is ever going to stop behaving badly, reporters themselves are going to have to draw the line between what's acceptable and unacceptable coverage because their producers most often seem to have no shame. Finally! Two CNN personalities -- Jack Cafferty and Bob Costas -- said "enough" to tabloid news coverage on television. Costas excused himself from his show altogether and Cafferty voiced his concerns clearly on the air. Granted, both men might be able to find other work easier than most; Costas is a busy sports personality and Cafferty must be close to retirement. But a stand is a stand and these guys both took one, and on a network that claims to want to shift away from "Crossfire"-like shouting to more hard news. Maybe they will help CNN put its money where its mouth is.

Costas and Cafferty may have only chipped a sliver off of the glacial pile of crap that often is the broadcast media, but the fact that they both spoke out is reassurance that someone in television news still has a conscience.

Watch the Cafferty video or read the transcript at Crooks & Liars

Read more about Costas at Crooks & Liars

[Via DigitalSpy and amberglow via Metafilter]

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Mean Reds

In Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Holly Golightly has a name for her periodic episodes of depression. Because they are worse than "the Blues," she calls them "The Mean Reds."

No matter how well put together we are, all of us get sunk by something like "The Mean Reds" once in awhile. Here's what works for me:
    First: Give yourself permission to feel and enough time to get over it (even if it's just one weekend at a time). If you don't deal with it now, you'll deal with it later.
    Second: Find a comfy place to lay down and spread out
    Third: Grab a book, take a nap, or turn on the TV and do whatever impulse grabs you.
    Fourth: Do NOT feel guilty for not answering the door, telephone, or for not keeping previous commitments.

Here are a few more ingredients that might help:

  • The Thrill of it All -- goofy comedy starring James Garner and Doris Day
  • Haagen-Daz fat-free frozen yogurt -- you're going to have the ice cream anyway, you'll hate yourself a little less when it's over.
  • Pull out that boxed set of Sex and the City
  • People magazine -- easy to read and you don't have to retain anything.
  • A Hitchcock film, like North by Northwest or Rear Window
  • Dark chocolate -- just a little
  • A John Sturgis movie (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven)
  • If you need a meal or groceries, order take-out or on-line and have it delivered. Don't apologize for showing up at the door in your PJs
  • Check the listings for Turner Movie Classics or American Movie Classics regularly
  • Sleep -- a LOT
  • A long fragrant bath
  • NO chores -- they can wait
  • Stay away from alcohol but Tylenol PM is OK

  • And the best remedy of all for feeling down: in the words of my favorite doctor, "Get yourself a dog!"

    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Sassy Girls Rule!

    I have the sweetest boyfriend on the planet and he loves Liz Phair. When he lived on the East Coast, he never got to see her live in person. He moved to Seattle two years ago and this fall he will enjoy his fifth live performance of the fair Ms. Phair -- he couldn't be happier.

    I am about the biggest "square" there is. If I can't hear the lyrics, I'm not really interested. Even at the height of my music fan-dom, I used to spend hours sprawled on the floor of my bedroom, album covers (with lyrics) spread out all over, doing my version of literary analysis of those artists who illuminated the experience of my life. The smarter the lyrics, the smarter I felt, and the more I loved the song.

    The first couple of times we saw Liz Phair, I couldn't understand a word she was saying, so my beloved would translate for me. Same with Elvis Costello. Everyone in the crowd was singing along, but I was left back, figuring there had to be something there to appreciate. (Please note: I have since become a HUGE Elvis Costello fan)

    So the other night, just before we left for the show, I asked him to tell me everything he knew about Liz and he played most of his IPod collection for me. In addition, the SOLD OUT concert turned out to be acoustic (just her and her very cute boyfriend). Gotta say...I LOVED IT!

    What's not to love? She's beautiful, smart, funny, plays guitar like a monster, and her lyrics are bone-deep honest. Plus, I like a girl with a potty mouth and she doesn't mince words when it comes to love. She expresses the entire range of female sexual experience from the disgust of another "Fuck and Run" evening to wanting to be someone's "blow job queen." At the same time we tell ourselves, "I am extraordinary" we also feel as good as dead when our beloved gets "tired of looking at my face."

    I'm not saying that I'm going to rush to her next concert (unless I can hear the words), but the other night, she made me want to buy a 12-string guitar and start writing and singing my own sings at the top of my voice: "Average every day sane psycho super goddess..."

    According to my sweetie, her most famous album is "Exile in Guyville" and it's a response to the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street." Buy it and listen. She's frank and shocking and brilliant and she's giving a voice to sassy girls everywhere.


    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Loose Cannons

    About a month ago, I wrote a blog entry that asked, "What Does a Terrorist Look Like?" Turns out the British police don't know either and, in the wake of the transit bombings this July, their miscalculation led them to murder an innocent man with seven shots to the head.

    The Sydney Morning Herald has a heartbreaking account of how Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes became a doomed man when the police photographer stepped away to the "loo," leaving his overzealous colleagues to start a manhunt that ended in Menezes' murder in front of horrified bystanders.

    All the justifications -- he ignored police warnings, he jumped the turnstile, he ran from police, he wore a heavy jacket, carried a bag -- are false. As a privileged white woman, I have a basic trust of the police. The only reason I understood the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial was my experience teaching the history of the civil rights movement when white bigots perfected the art of jury nullification. But, no matter how much faith we put in law enforcement, it is still comprised of human beings capable of making mistakes, trying to cover them up, poor judgement, and nursing a grudge.

    Unfortunately, the only way the media and the public knows the truth about this incident is through leaked documents. Borrowing a page from the public relations strategy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Brits avoid accountability and if someone asks a question, they lie. British police have yet to produce a photograph showing Menezes in the fabled heavy jacket and bag.

    Mr. Menezes' family and friends deserve better to explain the unexplainable. Their son died senselessly and one phone call might have changed all of their lives.

    In the midst of the frenzy that places two-year-olds on the "no fly list", I want to re-phrase Rodney King's plea: "Can't we all just slow down and think?"

    (More coverage at the BBC)

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Big Lies

    I once saw a man on Oprah who weighed so much, his leg bones literally bent in toward each other. The saddest part of the story, though, was when he finally lost all of the debilitating weight, he died soon after. All of that fat had taken its toll on his health and he couldn't escape the consequences.

    That got me thinking about the lies we tell ourselves to make everything OK. Big and small. Here are some examples:
    • Native Americans are a hostile force that must be eliminated*
    • I don't have time
    • Slavery is necessary to maintain an agrarian economy
    • I don't watch television*
    • Lighting up a stick of tobacco and repeatedly inhaling smoke is safe
    • Petroleum products and combustible engines don't hurt the environment
    • Everybody loves Raymond
    • It doesn't matter
    • She doesn't have anything to do with my feelings for you
    • Democracy is the same as capitalism*
    • The Red Sox deserve to win*
    • You can force a country to adopt Democracy
    • I don't eat a lot of sweets
    • Activist judges
    • Jesus was white*
    • Katie and Matt's banter is spontaneous
    • Saddam Hussein is responsible for 9/11
    • George Bush runs the country*
    • Madonna just needs the right script
    • My vote doesn't count
    • No one will notice
    • Fair and balanced*
    • I don't deserve it
    *via Superfrankenstein

    Since I started this entry with Oprah, I'm going to end it with her as well:
    "You don't become what you THINK, you become what you BELIEVE."

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Fightin' the Good Fight

    If it weren't so goddamned hot in Crawford, Texas, I'd send Cindy Sheehan her own flack jacket. She could use it.

    First, while she was being ignored by the President's motorcade, her husband filed for divorce last Friday. That's the kind of compassion that Newt Gingrich showed to one of his wives when he asked for her signature on divorce papers at her hospital beside while she battled cancer. What a guy, Cindy. Sad to see him go, I'm sure.

    Then, the Bush's wacko neighbor starts shooting a rifle in the air this weekend during Cindy & Company's prayer vigil and he makes no apologies because "this is Texas." Another MENSA member drove his truck through the camp and flattened 150 of the crosses volunteers erected in honor of the war casualties. And...the Secret Service keeps driving their SUVs by the camp at full speed, laying on their car horns. Seems like Ms. Sheehan is getting underneath someone's skin!

    And now the Right's Talking Points Machine is operating at full speed, attacking Cindy for being "allied with" (watch out for those words -- they were in the fax) Michael Moore, writing columns for progressive publications, and that great media intellectual Fred Barnes called her "a crackpot." Yeah, right up there with the abolitionists and suffragettes, huh Fred? Those wack jobs were just wasting their time.

    W is so busy biking, reading, and relaxing, he still can't find a few minutes to speak with Cindy because, he says, he has to "get on with his life." I bet Casey Sheehan would say the same thing if he could. After serving as an altar boy and an Eagle scout and serving in Iraq, I bet he would have wanted to "get on with" a family, a career, and even some grandkids for Cindy. But, W, you can't worry about that. You've got bigger fish to fry -- literally -- while you enjoy your vacation.

    I hope Cindy doesn't take W's behavior personally -- he's been treating the American people with the same arrogance and lack of accountability since he left Yale. When he wasn't using federal subsidies to pay for failed oil drilling efforts, he was milking taxpayers to pay for a baseball stadium, eventually sending their young people to die in Iraq to do the very "nation building" he accused Al Gore of in their first presidential debates. As he drives by her camp behind tinted glass, he is snubbing her in the same way he snubs Americans by threatening to dismantle their Social Security accounts, their wilderness areas, and their court system.

    Take heart, Cindy. Frank Rich calls W a sort of dead man walking in his latest article in the New York Times. The war is over, he says, the President just doesn't know it yet. He's one popularity point away from the lowest rating LBJ received at the height of the Vietnam War. You helped get him there, Cindy. Hang in there and keep fighting the good fight. It doesn't matter if you "win" or not. The fact that you are doing battle means everything.

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Vote of Confidence

    My ex is getting re-married and I've turned into Ronald Reagan.

    There is no logic in my craziness. I was the one who wanted out and yet all I do these days is visualize my own personal version of those "Morning in America" commercials from Reagan's campaigns in the 1980s.

    I see an aerial shot slowly descending on my sweet little former home town. The sun creates a golden glow settling over the lush green landscape (my home town is set in a desert, so even I should see the delusion here). Eventually, we zoom into my darling neighborhood filled with classic old homes and a quaint schoolhouse, and to our adorable little house (no peeling paint, of course) with a serene and beautifully landscaped back yard (no weeds or overgrown maple tree), just a few blocks from the high school where I taught -- where there were never any problem children and all of my colleagues were talented and always delightful to be with. Do you see what I'm doing to myself? I might as well turn my brain over my knee and start spanking.

    My Reaganesque delusions are mostly a result of a frustrating lack of focus. For the past two decades, every goal I have set for myself has basically been met. Yes, I dropped the ball sometimes and suffered some setbacks, but the essential vision of what I wanted to be was steely-eyed and crystal clear: a married teacher living in my hometown in a house loaded with charm. And sure enough...

    Eventually, though, I needed more career challenges and personal happiness. The trade-off: moving away from family and friends and ending a marriage and a dream job. No regrets, no hard feelings, lots of great memories.

    So why, like our former President, am I so discombobulated? I have a job I love which has unlimited potential for personal and professional satisfaction. I live with a man who could not be more supportive, intuitive, and kind in a city that sparkles with scenery and culture. And, happily ensconced in our condo with a view of Elliott Bay, we don't have to worry about spending our free time mowing the lawn or painting the house. What the hell is the problem?

    Maybe it's easier in your 20s to envision your future than it is in your 40s, but I refuse to let my age or inertia stop me from moving forward. I've known too many "stuck" people who allowed life to just "happen"...I want to set the target, aim directly at it, and go full speed ahead. It's just that my glasses are a little smudged right now and I can't seem to find a polishing cloth.

    On the other hand, now that the pressure is off to prove myself (as it was in my 20s), maybe this is the perfect time to take my glasses off completely, slow down, wander down the wrong street by accident, spend a little too much time reading or laughing or whatever...

    If Reagan suffered from this same blurred vision, he at least had ambitious operatives like Donald Regan, Cap Weinberger, and loving wife Nancy to keep him on the straight and narrow. Although I don't have a staff of my own, I feel like I can hear a dozen different opinions about what to do next and I can't always be sure which voice to heed.

    Lucky for Ronnie, he was set free by term limits after 8 years. Me? I'm embarking on a whole new campaign, seeking a higher office where I can be of the greatest service to myself and the world. I just don't want to be blinded by my own bullshit spun out of a mythical and rosy view of the past. Like those candidates we always dream about, I want to be honest in my dealings, ambitious in my goals, and creative in my execution.

    Sounds much more satisfying than those phony Reagan ad campaigns and definitely worthy of my vote.

    Saturday, August 13, 2005

    Making Some Real Change

    OK...I'm going to give you a link to a GREAT story, but you have to promise that if you are close enough to a Real Change vendor, you will GO OUT AND BUY A COPY OF THE LATEST ISSUE!

    It's only a buck.

    Seattle Weekly readers named Real Change the Best Grass Roots Media Outlet in the recent "Best of Seattle" survey and there's MORE great news about the paper.

    • First, its circulation has grown from a couple of hundred issues sold each month to 11,000 per month. Please note: 65 cents of each sale goes into the pockets of its sellers, who are homeless.

    • There has been a marked improvement in the quality and diversity of its content now that they have been able to hire a couple of part-time staff members.

    • They recently held a fund drive that netted them $60,000 from readers.

    Do you see why I like Seattle?

    So, back to my point. The most recent issue of Real Change features an enlightening interview by Alexandra Pelosi (daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- D-CA) who has written (what appears to be) a great book on the buffoons in the media AND in politics and how the whole election process becomes twisted. The interview is blunt, interesting, and made me curious enough to buy her book.

    I hope this blog entry makes you curious enough to buy this month's Real Change. And give your seller a little something extra for a cup of coffee.

    Check Pelosi's book out at
    Sneaking into the Flying Circus: How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns into Freak Shows (Free Press, May 2005)

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Cindy's Got An Army of Her Own

    Cindy Sheehan is attracting a lot of followers at "Camp Casey" (named after the son she lost in Iraq) near President Bush's ranch in Texas. Today, Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Susan Paynter profiles a Washington mom who has joined Cindy's growing army out of concern for her son-in-law and nephew who have both served in Iraq and may be sent back for another tour.

    This is old-fashioned activism and Cindy Sheehan should be proud of her attempts to hold our elected officials accountable. She wants to know WHY her son died in Iraq. W made an appearance yesterday (with Condi Rice close by) and sidestepped the question Cindy has been asking. This guy sure talks a lot, but doesn't have a lot to say. matter what how this turns out, you win. Keep up the good work.

    Paynter also includes information on how we can help Cindy's cause and I'm including it here:

    • You can assist Sheehan through Crawford Peace House ( ), by clicking on the donation link or sending checks to Crawford Peace House, P.O. Box 710218, Dallas, TX 75371-0218. The phone number is 254-486-0099.

    • Donations to support the Military Families Speak Out car caravan for Crawford can be sent to Arthur Ruger at P.O. Box 335, Bay Center, WA 98527. More information about the Northwest branch of that organization is available at

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    A Road Less Travelled to the Top

    Anderson Cooper has every reason NOT to work for a living, let alone run around the globe covering the saddest stories on the planet. His latest series of reports from Niger? He got the idea to cover that story while vacationing Rwanda! He is definitely NOT the typical trust-fund baby or "celebrat."

    As a child of heiress Gloria Vanderbilt and author Wyatt Cooper, his life's path of luxury seemed pre-determined: he would join the ranks of the children of the elite who don't do much more than bounce from party to party with the occasional fund-raiser mixed in for good measure. Private schools followed by Yale added to his privileged profile. But instead of winters in the Alps and summers in San Tropez, he went to work for Channel One (a horrid development for schools but a great starting ground for Cooper and Lisa Ling among others) as a reporter, travelling the world. He later joined ABC news and now is a major talent on CNN.

    Cooper made an appearance on Charlie Rose the other night talking about his reports from Niger, trying to make sense of the unexplainable tragedy. He also reminisced a bit about watching Peter Jennings work during his ABC years, including a memory of him ad-libbing at the major party conventions for 4 or 5 hours at a time.

    So, here's what I'm thinking...with time and experience, Anderson Cooper could become something of an heir to Peter Jennings. His good looks (he is VERY cute, but probably not too interested in girls like me, ah...well...), his taste, style, and intellect could take him there, but without the edge Jennings eventually developed (Cooper IS sharp as a tack, though). Like Jennings, he loves his work and is a natural storyteller.

    Even though he could use a few more years under his belt to earn true Cronkite-esqueness, Cooper should not be taken for a lightweight. There have been challenges. He lost his only sibling -- a brother -- to suicide at a young age, he saw his mother work hard to earn back the family fortune that had been dissipated over the years (hey, I bought the CUTEST pair of Gloria Vanderbilt flats in the 80s), and he DID host the first season of "The Mole."

    Not like it's tough duty, but I'm going to keep my eye on Anderson. I think he's going places and wherever they may be, he's bound to find a good story.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Who's Afraid of Cindy Sheehan?

    Apparently, President Bush is. Or is he just being as indifferent to her as he is to the rest of America? W has never been a student of history, but I would like to point out that the U.S. finally pulled out of Vietnam when a critical mass of white middle class Americans refused to give their children over to the government for an immoral and unpopular war in Southeast Asia.

    Cindy Sheehan is one more falling domino in the national collapse of support for the War in Iraq. And all it would cost W to earn a pick-up truck full of good will from miltary families would be glass of lemonade and a bit of his time. Read Maureen Dowd's take on Cindy's vigil and its effect on America's perception of the war in Iraq.

    The conservative media, always helpful in shedding light on a complex issue, started spreading some nasty rumors about Ms. Sheehan, claiming she was only interested in publicity and had changed her story since she first met with President Bush after her son's death a year ago. The folks at Media Matters actually took the time to trace the progression of the lies from Matt Drudge to Fox News and beyond. They even found her original comments and the context in which they were made. Pretty enlightening.

    Hang in there, Cindy. You pay that asshole's salary and you deserve an HONEST explanation about your son's death. Contrary to his arrogant attitude, he is supposed to be a PUBLIC servant. Wait him out.

    Well, It's SOMETHING to do...

    You can help to create the ultimate "Aristocrats" joke by adding to the growing string of disgusting hijinks now being drafted by blog readers.
    Add yours here
    * * * *

    Eighteen-year-old Scott Harper wanted to see what would happen if he jumped off the upper deck at Yankee Stadium and ended up looking like an ASS.
    * * * *

    I went on a hiking trip once and while struggling around some really big rocks, I ran into a battered hiker. When I said, "Good morning!", he responded, "Dah!"

    Turns out he was part of a visiting team of Russian climbers who had gotten lost on a nearby peak. Helicopters and planes had been flying over my campsite for the past 18 hours and now I knew why. Seeing the condition they were in, I was grateful that the state's Search and Rescue crew got the climbers to safety, but there was a big argument over whether the Russians should have to pay the state back. I don't know how that turned out, but I sort of thought that's why we have Search and Rescue services...for helping people who are in physical peril.

    But Runaway Bride Jennifer Wilbanks (or as the New York Post calls her, the "bug-eyed bolter") wasted a shitload of tax payer dollars with her lies and stupidity and in return, the State of Georgia is extracting its pound of flesh. No doubt the appearance of reporters today as she started her community service caused great humiliation. Of course, if she decides not to show up for the rest of her 120 hours, she could just blame her absence on another mythical carjacking by a dirty Mexican.

    Oh and by the way, she and her fiancee are still registered at Pottery Barn.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    Starving For a Life

    FX premiered an interesting sitcom featuring four compulsive eaters last week called "Starved." I laughed a little, but mostly it made me really sad...and I realized something I hadn't figured out after decades of battles with compulsive eating and bulimia: When you are addicted to something, your world gets very small. All the main characters say they want to have happy relationships, but the only thing they get close to is food.

    I remember one of the first times I binged and purged. I was a sophomore in college and (believe it or not) I had learned to purge by reading an article in Glamour magazine. Because of the time it took to get rid of what I ate, I missed a concert on campus one evening -- the first time I had really not shown up for something I said I would attend. So, instead of focusing on meeting my friends at the theater or listening to a great performance, my life became about this eating obsession and it continued through much of my 20s. I became isolated, insecure, and frantic. Bulimia doesn't make you a more interesting person.

    I think the 20-something years should be called the "stupid decade." I can't believe the bone-head decisions I made and the time I wasted. All the normal anxiety of life seems to be magnified because we lack the experience to be wise. Binging on something (alcohol, sex, food, gambling) is a powerful anesthetic that works (short-term) to block out the great big scary world.

    On top of that, there's an element of self-involvement in addiction. It's hard to "grow up" and so much easier to stick with what you know. Since the world is "all about me" during high school and college, the addiction keeps the focus on you.


    The other day I saw Oprah hammering on some woman who was struggling with her weight and I was really disappointed that Oprah seemed to have lost her compassion after struggling so hard on her own weight. So, I don't want to come off as too critical of the food addicts in "Starved," but throughout the show, I cringed at their obsession and wished they would pick up a book, go to a movie, volunteer for a good ANYTHING to get outside their own heads.

    As the main character, Bobby, of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Company" pines for a deep relationship in the song "Being Alive," his friends urge him to "Want something, Robert. Want SOMETHING." That's what I wish for those characters...that they want something outside of themselves...a hobby, an interest, a passion, a friend, ANYTHING but the food, the booze, the cards. Look up from the table or the bed or the floor, take in the amazing variety of the world and find SOMETHING that needs you as much as you need it. Satisfy your appetite for life with something other than the addiction.

    OK, that's enough blather about friggin' TV characters. Maybe I need to replace my addiction to TV with something else.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    The Last of His Kind

    There was a brain behind that handsome face and I was thankful to have such an erudite, educated person on one of the three major networks. Dan was earthy, Tom was plainspoken, and Peter was James Bond. We saw him all over the globe, wearing a trench coat or a safari jacket and his peers say he had one of the best Rolo-Dexes in town.

    But beyond his class and style, he seemed to care very much that we understood the often incomprehensible stories around the world. His personal library was said to be vast and varied.

    He never graduated from high school. He smoked for a very long time. He was married four times. He could be very tough on his colleagues. And when he covered the millenium celebrations, he nearly broke down crying while saluting the production team who helped him to cover them (I chalked it up to sleep deprivation).

    Television is a much cheaper place nowadays and we will be hard pressed to find a place in it for the kind of intelligence and depth Peter Jennings had. But for the forty years that Peter Jennings spent trying to learn about this complex world and explain it to all of us, I want to honor him on my blog.

    The Price of Internet Dating

    "Fall absolutely madly in love with anybody. If it's the wrong person, all the better; then you'll have something to make a movie about." -- Hollywood director Allison Anders

    My favorite conversation at the checkout stand happened when I commiserated with a grocery checker about working the night shift:

    "Well, I guess it beats staying home and surfing the internet, right?"

    Her face darkening, she grumbled: "That internet is evil."

    Apparently, during the previous six months, three Safeway employees in that small-town store had left their spouses for people they "met" on the internet. Frankly, that didn't sound too crazy to me. We had recently graduated a senior girl who had been left completely alone to finish high school while her mother moved to London to live with her internet paramour. It's easy to feel desperate and constricted in a small town and the internet must have offered the promise of something (anything) better.

    After I divorced, I decided to try internet dating, mainly because I needed to meet a selection of men -- to see who was out there (I had never really dated before) and if I dated a bunch of different kinds of guys, I could get some context for a good decision. My friends who had tried internet dating and failed were the ones who were seeking a lasting commitment and you just ain't gonna find that on


    Now, happily ensconced with my beloved (who I did NOT meet on the internet), I have been thoroughly enjoying the ABC summer series "Hooking Up" which follows 12 women in New York City as they internet date their way to...we don't know yet. It's produced by a documentary team and presented as "news," so it's not supposed to be scripted.

    The shark of the series is Amy, a 20-something from South Dakota who knows exactly what she wants: to get married and have kids. Always moving, she sorts through men with her goals clearly in mind. That doesn't mean she doesn't make some colossal mistakes and she still resorts to old-fashioned manipulation to get what she wants. Thank God her sister is around to temper her libido and point out that some of her choices are goons. Her strong focus keeps her from wasting time, but I wish she would let herself have some fun so she doesn't find herself at 40 wishing she had.

    I love Sonja, a Southern belle who jumps in with both feet even after a grabby first date turns out to be a jerk. Interestingly as the oldest of the group (38), she's also the most fearless. LOVE HER!

    And the biggest dissapointment is Reisha, who holds her chastity (including kisses) so tightly I don't know how she ever gets a second date. If sex is currency, she is Scrooge and her dates are Bob Cratchett. As a result, a few cute ones have already moved on. The tension in the room during an overnight stay between Reisha and her (very handsome) boyfriend Acie foreshadowed a cold and distant marriage. Thank God Acie jumped ship. She reeks of fear over possible rejection and she has created a protective scaffolding of rules to keep her safe. Too bad. She's smart and beautiful.

    The big surprise? The prettiest girl kisses the most frogs. Kristin has appeared in all the MTV yoga and pilates videos but can't catch a break date-wise. I think being beautiful must be like being rich. You never know if your date likes you for who you are or for what you can do for them. And beauty is definitely an asset that men like to use to reflect themselves to others. The biggest problem: Kristin, as beautiful as she is, doesn't really seem to be too comfortable with herself, and until she does, she'll probably have to keep looking.

    There is something exhilarating about watching people take tentative steps toward a possible relationship. The thrill of first touches, trying to ferret out information without seeming obnoxious, finessing awkward situations without being rude. It's amazing any of us ever find each other at all and you have to admire those of us who actually take a chance and go out looking for our heart's desire.

    I can't take my eyes off of it. If you need good material while walking on the treadmill, tape it. It's almost better than chocolate.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Lookin' For An Angel

    It's Seafair weekend in Seattle and a curious condo tenant went "up on the roof" to see the Blue Angels fly over Elliott Bay. The Blue Angels flyover is an annual tradition that precedes the weekend's hydroplane races. Wrapped in black material since June, the condo building is being re-sided.

    click on image to see larger view

    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    Sweet Peaches

    It's late summer and that means one thing and one thing only: PEACHES!

    We've been buying them by the bushel this summer. You may recall I made a mighty tasty peach shortcake for our Fourth of July party, thank you very much.

    The other day, we wandered down to Pike Place Market -- Seattle's favorite tourist attraction (aside from the Space Needle) where folks go to watch the guys throw fish, to buy bunches of (cheap) beautiful flowers in bouquets wrapped in paper, and wander the stalls of food and tchotchkes for sale.

    As a native of Eastern Washington and a recent transplant to Seattle, I deliberately sought out a stand selling peaches grown near my chilhood home. They were the sweetest, ripest, readiest fruit I could find. i raced home, peeled them, sliced them , and proceeded to make the worst peach cobbler I had ever witnessed.

    My grandmother was the "Cobbler Queen." She would dollop dough on top of the fruit mixture in her well worn, beaten up cobbler pan but there was never enough of that sweet buttery crust to last to the end of the fruit and I was determined to crack that formula: to achieve that perfect fruit-to-crust ratio.

    Standing in my kitchen, with peach juice running down my arms, I remembered being eight or nine at a family reuinion populated with distant cousins, one of whom saw me gouging craters in a defenseless peach as I tried to peel it. He patiently demonstrated how to gently grab the skin between thumb and paring knife so that the skin peeled off, leaving all the perfect round flesh in Gourmet-Magazine-picture-perfect condition. I don't think I ever saw that cousin again but I still us his technique.

    Growing up, we lived next to a small orchard -- the kind you would lose a lot of money with today. The only way to make a profit as a modern orchardist is to spread your overhead across as many acres as possible, so the lush trees and grass of small orchards in our valley have been torn out and replaced, mostly by oversized houses on tiny lots. But back then, with a small orchard, you could afford to raise a family and even send all the kids to college.

    Our neighbor invited us to help ourselves to all the culls (the peaches that dropped to the ground) and we made daily trips to the orchard so my dad could enjoy his favorite -- peaches and cream for breakfast -- and my mom could can dozens of jars for the winter. In big pots, we would boil them so the skins would slide right off, then slice them in half, pit them, place them neatly in the clean hot jars and cover them with hot simple syrup before they were sealed. Even with all the doors and windows open, someone could have charged admission to our kitchen as an commercial-grade sauna.

    Over the years, out of pure sloth and a lack of loyalty, I have gravitated toward the nectarine rather than the peach as my favorite fruit. You still get the peachy taste, you don't have to peel nectarines. And I DO NOT GET IT when people eat peaches with the skin on. All that fuzz going in my mouth....AAAAGH! It's like fingernails on a chalkboard.

    But I haven't given up on pursuing the perfect cobbler recipe that summer. Like Lance Armstgrong, I see my quest as a race that must be run, a mountain that must be climbed. And I will climb this mountain. It's not too late. It's late summer and peaches are still in season. In the meantime, as I carefully peel and slice each lovely perfect globe, my mind will be flooded with the sweet, mellow delights of late summers past and cobblers yet to be.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Bob Novak is a Pussy

    Jon Stewart's wet dream finally became reality Thursday when Robert Novak ("he's rotting from the inside," Stewart says) cursed on the air and then walked off the CNN set of "Inside Politics."

    What's the matter, Bobbie...can't you take it? 'Cuz you sure can dish it out, especially when it serves the Bush White House.

    There is some justice in the world: he has been suspended indefinitely from CNN. Not for his irresponsible reporting, you understand. Oh, no! CNN suspended him for the cursing.

    At least we can thank Janet Jackson's floppy boob for something. It got Novak's evil spewing filth off the air for awhile.

    • • • •

    By the way, I think I called it right when I predicted that Karl Rove wasn't going anywhere. This August recess will erase everyone's memory tapes about the CIA leak and the Roberts confirmation will take over Page One in September. And, there seems to be Krazy Glue plugging the leaks of the Plame investigation (unlike the sieve-like Ken Starr investigation of the Clintons). If the grand jury is dismissed in October without making indictments, we may never know what who did what.

    In the meantime, W keeps avoiding reality by pledging his loyalty to friends like Rove and admitted steroid user "Raffy" Palmiero.

    Aaaaah, it must be good to be King.

    • • • •

    Happy 85th birthday to Helen Thomas. She's got more balls than all the idiots previously named in today's blog entry (except Jon Stewart) combined.

    Keep kicking ass and publishing the results, sister. You make me proud to be an American, a woman, and a former reporter. God Bless.