Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Yes, that giant (of course it's German) word means emergency situation, out of the ordinary: a time for suspension of rules, where everything you know can come into question.

Such was the case yesterday in this house-o-fun. After days of being sick, my son has seamlessly descended into teething hell, all four canines pinching their way up through swollen gums at once. If there were any rules yesterday, they were written by my son. They were, to the best of my knowledge, as follows:

1) Everything is wrong.
2) You think you're funny? You're not. You're wrong. (See #1)
3) Anything you do to comfort me will be rebuked and scorned.
4)Food must be masticated, ejected, then flung.
5)Sleep is bad, unless it is achieved using some position that immobilizes and deadens one of mom's limbs.
6)Trucks are torture.
7)Books are torture.
8)When shopping, make sure everyone in the store thinks mom is torturing you.
9)When mom's not looking, do something dangerous.
10)Get upset when she stops you from doing the dangerous thing.
11)It's your day. Make the most of it!

Yes, it was a true version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Someone came and took my affable, gentle, funny, intellegent child and replaced him with a war-like Klingon (sans trilobite forehead). Those teeth coming up are actually alien probes.

He seems to be in a better mood today. That is to say, he only ended up crying uncontrollably in our bed at 5am this morning, and seems to be content to whine, nag and grouse at his dad instead of just me. (It helps that his dad was requisitioned on the homefront to babysit the carpet installers who are currently paving wide swathes of the basement with cut pile as this is written). Instead, dad has been drafted into kiddie-diversion at the mall playground, to be followed by child haircut-torture at 11am. Right now mom rules the roost, and mom is going to eat a peanut butter cup. It's her manifest destiny.


And speaking of martial law, in case you weren't paying attention... Bush has apparently buried another one of his nuggets (and I'm not talking the kind of gold) in a bill that allows him to declare martial law just that much easier.

As the NYT puts it: "Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any 'other condition.'"

Yes, enter Bizarro World. Or just continue Bizarro World. As I said in an earlier post, it almost takes my breath away the scope of imagination and malice that the Bush administration has in repealing important parts of our democracy. I mean, is there even any even vaguely plausible exuse for trying to do such a thing? I don't think at this point they even feel like they have to justify anything with a rouse of explanation. They just do it. Period.

Though I have to wonder: if Bush (oh, let's get real here-- it's Cheney) really wants to turn us into a fascist state under his martial law, who is really going to go along with that? I must reiterate what Jane Smiley says on the Huffington Post here:

I have to point out that with this as with other legal maneuvers like the Military Commissions Act, I have to wonder who Bush, Cheney, Rove, etc. think they are governing. Were they planning to spring these things on us? One day, we were supposed to wake up, and martial law would be declared, and we were supposed to actually pay attention to it? Where are they keeping the troops who were going to patrol our neighborhoods? Who was it who was going to disarm the population? Who was their base going to be, when they sought public support for martial law? Who was going to round us up and where were they going to put us?

Umm. Yeah. So the 20% of nutjobs who still approve of Bush are going to marshal the rest of us? I don't think so. Too many malls to conquer.

Perhaps Bush is simply playing by some of the same rules as my toddler. (Ever seen that t-shirt with the official Toddler Property Laws on it? What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine.)

In other words: It's your day. Make the most of it!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Funny- Haha

I came across this interview with Bill Maher on that is really worth a looksee. Some wonderful nuggets like this one, where he's talking about Bush's upcoming "surge" in Iraq:

Most of the people in his own party are against it, even though many of them wouldn't say so out loud. But George Bush, he knows better. That is a kind of arrogance that is very hard to swallow at this point, especially when it's costing this many lives. Even the pope -- remember he said something bad about the Muslims a few months ago? The infallible pope came out and said, "Geez, my bad. That came out wrong. I didn't mean that." Yeah, the pope can say he's sorry, but this recovering alcoholic from Midland, Texas, he can't even say he's wrong.

He goes on to this really funny and true characterization of what the Democrats need to do to reframe the debate about patriotism and our course of action in the war:

what the Democrats need, I think more than anything: [is] the confidence to make the case, to say, "If I disagree with your policy, it doesn't mean I oppose the troops." If you have an exterminator come over, and he starts hitting the vermin with a hammer, individually, and you say, "I don't think this is the way we should go about this" -- you're not for the rats.

Really true, witty stuff. He also has a really funny description of Al Gore and John Kerry's failed campaigns. Well, anyhow, stop reading my writing about it and go look at it yourself. Oh if we only had HBO... who am I kidding? We still wouldn't watch it. We're just lame like that. But maybe we'd read about someone else watching. Now that would be fun!

Monday, February 19, 2007

On Time?

Oh my God- I just looked out the window and saw a mottled patch of grass peeking out from below the arctic tundra that is our front yard. Grass! Brown. Hmmph.

The markers of the passage of time can get all rearranged, so that you think that up is down. If you've ever had a kid and been supremely sleep-deprived, you know this in your bones. You can perform amazing feats in your sleep and not remember having done them in the morning. You can also be totally awake in the middle of the night and yet unable in the least to rise to any challenge whatsoever.

There are times when you are sicker than a dog and you think Oh Lordy, this is it. Take me now! and then something that is so feather-light lifts up from you and you have the first lucid thought in days, or your hand doesn't ache when you reach for a sip of water.

Very tricky business, this time thing. It reminds me of this William Carlos Williams poem:

so much depends
a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

That is to say, everything depends on everything. Vividly. Essentially. Time depends on who you are at an instant; on how the spheres and orbits are calibrated-- or are they focused like a lens? Shoot! Blink. It is past. Up can be up and down can be up. Or, as my son agrees: All things can be white. All things can be red. They can also be wed or right. Such is time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

We Are the Yeti

My son woke up this morning looking like he had slept with a giant snail. I know it's not a pretty picture, but if you can imagine, this is the polite way of saying that he has an abominable cold. For those of you keeping score at home, I think we are at number 6 or 7, depending on whether you believe the third base coach on the last one.

Nothing can inspire you to the heights of parenthood than a miserable little guy. I'll try just about anything. We read all the favorite books over and over and over again. I suspend my whole grains dogma and feed him whatever tastes good. (I mean, excuse me to all those amazing saint moms with their Omega 3s and whole grains, but when the kids are SICK? Who thinks brown rice is appetizing when they're SICK? Actually, who thinks brown rice is ever appetizing?)

So, in a stroke of inspiration, I decided to bring the little guy upstairs and sit in front of the computer. For some reason our television (which goes through our computer-- don't ask, it's a sore situation) doesn't pick up PBS very well at all. Of course, PBS is pretty much one of the only stations that can be really kid-friendly without veering off into marketing mayhem in its extreme. Sure, Sesame Street is a brand, but it's got lots of good things associated with it as well. Anyhow, I digress.

So I bring my son up, sit him on my lap and go to the Sesame Street web site. We click on a link called "Elmo's World". And no sooner does the little red critter appear and start to talk, then my son starts shrieking and crying his "get this freaky thing away from me!" cry.

Let me explain. My son is now a few months shy of two years old. He does not watch television. At all. No Sesame Street, no Wiggles, no Thomas. Nada. Zippo. Zip. Zilch.

His exposure to TV (though he's seen it occasionally at other people's houses or when we zip by the Target media department heading towards the baby-bottom department) is basically nil. Which means that he's apparently pretty freaked out when little red monsters start to talk. Then again, isn't that really a rational response? Think about it from a totally clean slate. You're this innocent in the world and you look up one day and there's a little red monster talking. Indeed, I think it probably is upsetting.

And truth be known, for as much as I myself enjoy television here and there, I think a lot of stuff on it is upsetting. And somehow, just not useful. Not interesting. Not imperative.

I was talking to my mom this morning and she had CNN on or something else and she said there was footage of an elephant going berserk trying to roll over a minivan in Hong Kong. I mean, excuse me? What is this, "When animals attack"?

And when I see how much coverage there is just in print and on the web of Anna Nicole Smith, I thank my lucky stars that I don't even have to change the channel, because I'm not watching.

Still, for as much as I love not watching TV (or rather, what I do with my time other than watching TV), there are definite moments where it makes me feel somewhat retarded. Take for instance, this FedEx package that I've been awaiting since Wednesday. "Free Upgraded Overnight Shipping!" the web site said.

Here it is friday, and I still don't have it. The web site showed the thing sitting in Indianapolis for two days (reminds me of a certain ice cream package that took a side-trip to Minneapolis for two days).

Nevermind that I have spoken with all my family in Ohio and they've told me about the superiority of the ice storm, about the fat shiny casings of ice around each tiny thumb of a branch. I'm dense. I made no connection whatsoever.

Finally, when I called customer service today, they said "Sorry, ma'am, it's the weather." Well, duh. Don't mind me. I'm living under a rock. Sometimes it's cozy warm down here, don't you know?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown

I feel somewhat like my life is a plotline to a very silly Valentine's day special. Last night I got sick (yet again! this has got to stop!) and ended up most of the night in the bathroom. I think that makes five times this winter that I've had some sort of stomach bug. :( Poor me! I've GOT to stop hanging around with these toddler types... they're simply ruining my appetite.

This morning my husband graciously stayed home so I could sleep it off. Until, that is, I heard him yell "That's not a good idea, my friend!" followed by a loud crash. Then he called me "Come In Here Now!" I burst out of the bedroom to find my grinning toddler and my husband, bent over the side of our table picking up the shards of my favorite vase that had been full of tulilps.

A minor soliloquy: This was the most wonderful vase for tulips! Made in the 1930's by the McCoy pottery company, it was pale yellow and had these elegant tulips in relief on the side. I had picked it up at a Goodwill store in Colorado and I trotted it out every springtime. It was (cheesy as it sounds) my little altar for spring's return.

A quick search of Ebay shows no hits-- thus, no pics. Probably irreplaceable.

I picked up the grinning toddler (who by now was even more entertained by the reaction his little antic got) and placed him, protesting loudly, into the playpen. My husband and I cleaned up the mess and I tromped off to bed.

Now I am slowly nursing myself back to life with Sprite and oyster crackers and watching someone's shoveling service load their tools back into a dulled red pick-up. Perhaps I'll go back to bed and start all over again. Groundhog's day, anyone?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fruit Porn

Yesterday evening I was invited by a friend to a jewelry party. Not usually my bag, but I like the woman, so I decided to take the opportunity to get to know her.

The party is beside the point (and yes, I did end up buying things I don't need.) The point is that in less than two (2) days I have stuck my foot in my mouth talking about pornography at two separate social functions. Now, you may ask: why talk about pornography at social functions? Good question. I suppose it's because I feel like good conversation is lively, and that in the realm of intellegent social discourse there should be very few taboos.

You see, it all started with this book I had to read at lightening-speed for my new book club. As a recovering English graduate student, I have shied away from discussing literature for fear that I might become physically a)violent or b)sick. Graduate school has cured me of any desire to talk about literature for the past seven or so years. Somehow, the whole experience sucked every bit of enjoyment I got out of literature. I suppose it's like the old adage that if you enjoy cooking, you should never open a restaurant.

At any rate, so my newfound interest in discussing books again met an opportunity with this new book club, made up of insanely smart and talented stay-at-home-moms. The book is called "The Piano Teacher" by Elfriede Jelinek, who is an austrian writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not a bad pedigree, you might say.

However, this book so pissed me off that after spending days forcing myself to read it, when I finally finished I threw the damned thing across the room. Basically, it's about a woman (a piano teacher, hence the title) who is totally controlled by her mother (with whom she still sleeps in the same bed-- eeew!) and who is totally incapable of any emotion except pain and disgust.

She ends up trying to seduce a student of hers (though seduce is not actually correct-- perhaps a more accurate description would be to dominate her in many very imaginative, painful ways). Without going into more detail because you'll either get disgusted or I'll start looking around for something to throw, perhaps you can see why the book lit my ire. The characters were all miserable, self-serving and impossible to one another.

But what's more, it was annoying as hell to be teased by how unfulfilling any of the relationships were (with always the vague promise or notation that they should be) and on top of that, no good sex! None! Nada! Call me crazy, but at least if I am going to be reading some version of a romantic thriller, I do want a little action!

Now, intellectually, I know that that sublimation, that inability for the story and its characters to be redeemed (whether by love, by sex, or perhaps by one freaking kind word or thought about humanity) was exactly the point of the entire exercise, but somehow it still doesn't matter to me.

At any rate, that got me thinking about why I indeed was able to finish the book, given my scathing assessment. And the truth is, it really to me has to do with being nosy, having my interest piqued by the lives of others. In literature, you may have glimpses into the interior monologues (and yes, sex lives) of others... where you, in other words, under normal life circumstances, would never be allowed to tread.

It reminds me of one of Judith Warner's NYT blogs where she talks about the chick flick "The Holiday" as so-called "mommy porn". That movie really upset her because she felt like the Jude Law character (a widower and father of two young, impossibly cute girls) was so idealized that in some way, he was being objectified, the same way that many feminists claim that idealized women characters objectify women in general.

She argued that such idealized visions of fatherhood, and romance in general, were not helpful. She felt betrayed somehow by it. To which I responded in the comments that I am not at all against "mommy porn".

I think chick flicks exist for a reason: that watching a movie or reading a book that expresses our ideals for relationships can be cathartic. I am the first to say that romantic movies, as long as they're well-hewn and not insipid, make me feel romantic. I don't leave a picture and sigh and say, "Oh, if only my husband were more like Hugh Grant."

Being around and thinking about love makes me also vicariously feel love. Now I am not saying that relying only on such images and thoughts is a good thing-- you could definitely fall down the slippery slope of expectations only to live your life in dire disappointment.

But perhaps, in small doses, we have a need for vicariousness, for envy, and for a kind of pornography. I mean, People magazine, according to my definitions, is definitely a form of pornography. So is Martha Stewart Living, any travel magazine, and the Harry and David catalog, for amazing-dewdrops-on-lucious-plums' sakes!

I think, in that sense, that pornography (and yes, even the kind that depicts sex) serves a very elemental, very human purpose. I am not saying that I condone the really nasty and abasing stuff-- that's not pornography, that's abuse. I am simply saying that pornography, in the form of idealized representation of things and people, is understandable, is available in a mind-boggling array of degrees, and is in most capacities, not immoral. It is human, and it serves important human needs.

So there. I said it. Not that this is going to help me live down my reputation as an intellectual porno-apologist or as a self-professed fascist (long story. you don't want to know.) But now at least it's in the realm for you to think about, perhaps without attaching all sorts of nasty words and (heaven forbid!) pictures to what I'm talking about.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a marzipan-apricot scone to eat.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who knows?

This one will have to be quick as I must must must vaccum the downstairs-- it's my only shot while the kiddo sleeps.

So, here goes:

Who knows...

-Why icecubes are sticky?
-Why moisture in the air can make us colder or hotter?
-Why my son went to sleep with a small tin cup in one hand and a train in the other?
-What toxic goo is on movie popcorn and why people want to replicate this taste at home?
-Where all the scissors have gone and why I end up cutting things with nail scissors even though we own 5 pairs of normal ones?
-Why we are so addicted to bubbles in our beverages? (I mean, I drink carbonated water, for God's sakes)
-Why I read People magazine even though I don't give a rat's ass about most celebrities?
-Why real letters, left in the mailbox, are so gratifying?
-Why two separate people who we don't know shoveled our walk this morning (one with a shovel, the other with a snowblower)?
-Why untouched snow is so satisfying, and why disturbed snow is almost repugnant?
-Why boys are so attracted to things with wheels almost as soon as they set foot outside the womb?
-Why I continue to eat things at the computer even though I've already ruined one keyboard?
-Why anyone would read the book "The Piano Player", enjoy it, and then want to see the movie?
-Why the two hours my son is napping a day are more delicious than any other time by myself?

You should be so delicious, too. Try it. Who knows?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Catch and Release

My husband told me the other day that President Bush (in honor of Molly Ivins, who recently passed, let's call him "Shrub" for old time's sake) signed an executive order which basically requires all branches of government involved in making and interpreting regulations to have the oversight and the rubber-stamp of a political appointee. Read about it here.

This is preposterous!!!

Basically, Shrub is sick and tired of having to fight the "scientists" and their "facts". These "facts" are compelling folks at the EPA and OSHA to issue regulations that "hamper" business.

While the question of whether regulation puts undue burden on businesses (and therefore, that hardship gets passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices) is not unreasonable, what IS unreasonable is placing a political appointee in the position of being the judge of this.

Like one of Shrub's favorite tricks, this one takes a perfectly rational idea (that business should be one of the considerations in any passing of regulation) and gives a perfectly assinine, inappropriate, and downright corrupt response.

I've thought over and over again: How is it that he can keep doing this? How is it that we aren't rising up against him, at least putting some sort of pressure on him to stop doing this kind of crackpotty stuff?

I think what it is is that his corruption, his perversion is so pervasive, so often, so egregious we don't even know where to start. I feel like every other day the man is knocking the wind out of me.

It's all a cheap trick, and I know it. We all know it. And no one has been seemingly able to reign it in, though we all know what's going on. My only hope now is that we get a president into office next with a long memory and an axe to grind.


While we're in the realm of fantasies, I have a kvetch-- a bone to pick, shall we say.

Last week I had a babysitter in the afternoon and went to see a matinee. A "chick flick", if you will, called "Catch and Release" starring Jennifer Garner.

Up until this point my main knowledge of Ms. Garner was from the pages of People magazine. (My friends often tease me that I know so much about celebrities without having seen almost a damned thing they've been in). But I digress. Anyhow, so I always sort of had this feeling about Ms. Garner that she looked like a little girl. Since I haven't ever seen Alias or anything else she's been in, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

Boy was I wrong.

And, apparently, so was the New York Times! One of the reasons I thought seeing this movie would be a good idea is because it actually got a decent review! Gadzooks.

So here it is, you ready?

The story is: Ms. G is engaged to a guy and the day before their wedding he dies in some freak accident. Poor girl. At the visitation she escapes because she can't handle the outpouring of grief and she goes to hide in the bathtub of the upstairs bathroom. Where, not a second afterwards, the dead guy's best friend comes barging in and "does" the catering chick right there. After they're done and the girl leaves, Ms. G jumps out, horrified and annoyed and confronts the guy, then storms out.

So, where does that leave us? With a budding love affair of course! She starts to learn things about her fiancee (like an affair he had, a stash of money he's hidden from her) and starts to see that he wasn't so great after all, and she was duped. Meanwhile she gets closer and closer to the funerary copulator and ends up falling in love with his smarmy ass.

And this is a happy ending? Excuse me? Really, you lost me when the supposed love interest in this flick was having a quicky with the catering chick. Not redeemable.

To top it off, the film was set in Boulder, CO, one of my old haunts. That's all well and good-- they showed lots of parts of Boulder which is always beautiful and fun to see... but the way they "set" it was so obnoxious: one of Ms. G's friends works for Celestial Seasonings choosing the inspirational quotes for the sides of the tea boxes... everyone is running around in Bolder Boulder t-shirts (a famous 10k race held yearly) and with the posters adorning their walls... everyone drinks from Celestial Seasonings mugs. It's enough to make you puke.

And what's up with the fact that every Hollywood actor and actress seem to have these gargantuan white-out white teeth? All I could think of while Ms. G and the smarmy guy were having these romantic kisses was eeeeeeeeeeeewww! How's there room for anything else in their mouths with those goddamned beaver teeth?

Yes, I am a sucker for the chick flick. The chick flick done well. The chick flick that does a convincing job making us identify with the woman (in this case, a pouty five-year-old?) and the amour (a smarmy, beaver-toothed "artist"?). The chick flick that makes you feel more human, more romantic, more hopeful.

This one? Throw it back in the water.

From a children's poem:

One, two, three, four, five;

Once I caught a fish alive.

Six, seven, eight, nine, ten;

Then I let it go again.

Why did you let it go?

Because it bit my finger so.

Which finger did it bite?

This little finger on the right.