9.29.2008

Rules for Buying Gas Post-Hurricane


If you'll recall, last year I wrote a list of rules for grocery shopping during the holidays. After my hour-long wait for gas yesterday, I feel compelled to make a similar list for Buying Gas During the Fuel Crisis:

1. Do not wait until you're on "Empty" to start looking for gas. If you run out while waiting in line, and have to push your car to the pump, not only do you slow things down but you also demoralize everyone who has to watch you push.

2. Do not get into an hour-plus gas line with your kids in the car. If the wait isn't abuse in itself, your smacking them around because they misbehave--once they get tired/hungry/need to pee--is.

3. If you disregard rule #2, do NOT leave your car parked in front of the pump while you take the kids in to buy Ding-Dongs and apple juice and take them to the restroom.

4. If you leave your car near the back of the line and stroll up to the parking lot to check out the progress (or lack of), report back to those in their cars as you walk back down to your vehicle. We are bored and need the distraction. If there's nothing to report, sing us a song.

5. Pay with a check card or credit card.

6. Have that card ready. Don't wait until you're parked at the pump to begin searching the bottom of your purse, discarding old coupons, pennies, used tissues, mangled tampons, and melted lip gloss.

7. GET OFF YOUR CELL PHONE once you get to the pump. Do NOT do this job one-handed. Do NOT let yourself be distracted by your mom's story of how intoxicated Aunt Jo got at Cousin Martha's wedding reception.

8. Be in a hurry. At least ACT like you care that others are still suffering.

9. DO NOT CLEAN YOUR WINDSHIELD, clean out your car, or check your fluids! Unless a pterodactyl has taken a dump on the glass, you can wait until you get home.

10. No gas cans! Your grass can wait, this is no time to be riding a go-kart, and you can keep the body in the freezer until this crisis is over.

9.28.2008

Retro in the Metro


I had to wait in line for over an hour on Memorial Drive to buy gas today, so I had plenty of time to hate on everyone--the hogs in their SUVs, the losers who left their cars sitting in front of the pump while they went inside to pay CASH, the morons with kids in the car, the asswipes who needed lessons on how the pump works...

As soon as I have time, I'm going to write my RULES FOR BUYING GAS DURING A FUEL CRISIS.

9.25.2008

There's More than the Amputee-of-the-Day on the Today Show


There are awesome products advertised too.

I saw a commercial for this on the Today Show this morning, and it FREAKED ME OUT! All I could think about was so much peeled fruit, exposed to the air; how many fingers would have touched it before and during the arranging; the different rooms and hallways it would have passed through...

I imagined a disgruntled worker (who might have had to search the couch cushions for the kid's lunch money that morning) picturing what kind of Christmas-sweater-wearing-QVS-watching-beBotoxed person would spend $90 on such hideous fly-bait and then licking each piece of cantaloupe and sticking the grapes up his/her nose.

9.23.2008

A Little Slice of my Day



I had to rush home from work to help Lola with her 'Above and Beyond' project for her Target class. She started the project on Friday, and it required no fewer than three trips to the comic book store "for research." In the past, we did these assignments on poster board, but some future flugelhorn player (and his MBA parents) set the bar a little higher this year. So we had to finish putting together her Power Point presentation on Spiderman and Batman supervillains before I had to take her to softball practice at 6:45.

Biggy, who is coaching her team, met us at the park and complained about the camping shorts I'd brought him (He forgot to take a change of clothes to work) and accused me of being passive aggressive. I suggested that he was mistaken if he thought his Tiny Dancer Shoes (the cleats he bought off a clearance rack three years ago that make his feet look three inches long) looked any better with coaching shorts (WHICH WERE DIRTY ANYWAY...) Then it was off to Target to buy Lo a memory stick, because it costs more than even neon-colored poster board. Honestly, I think that was the whole appeal of the PP anyway--that the kid who did the first one brought this magic gadget in and all these little geeks-in-training had to have one.

I went looking for the cheapest memory stick I could find, considering it was going to fall out of Lola's pocket on the monkey bars and get lost in the quicksandesque pile of shredded recycled tires that probably releases more toxins than Kerr-McGee. I was in luck, though, because over by the digital cameras was a little rack of Hannah Montana and Highschool Musical memory BRACELETS that were on sale for 7.98. They looked like the yellow rubber Livestrong bands, but rather than inspiring children to persevere, these memory things came with a digi-folder full of karaoke. Score.

I knew Lola would die if I bought her Hannah Montana anything, so I grabbed the other one, paid, went to Publix to pick up a prescription and buy Jack some pop tarts, and ran home to cook Gorditas before Dad and Daughter were due from practice.

I was very proud of how smoothly the day had gone until Lola got home and asked, "Did you get it?!" I pointed to the counter where the bracelet lay, with Zack and Vanessa and Ashley--their smiling faces so tiny they might as well have been the Golden Girls. But Lo knew exactly who they were, and her face imploded upon the sight. I don't think I'd seen this kind of reaction from her since we asked her to switch to panties instead of boxers. And because we never repeated that mistake, I can't remember how long ago it happened.

I had no intention of going back to Target, but she was NOT taking that High School Musical memory bracelet ANYWHERE. I showed her how she could wear the bracelet upside down, but that didn't appease her. Her teacher would still SEE it when it was plugged in. She said she'd wait till next week to make her presentation so she could redo it on poster board.

In a brainstorming panic to avoid having to search under the beds for glue and Sharpies; the inevitable trip to Office Depot for a new ink cartridge; and the epic standing-in-the-aisle-at-Walgreens choice between green, orange, or yellow poster board, I remembered that Georgia had an old box of scrapbooking materials in her room, so I rummaged through it and found some Halloween stickers--black and white stickers of eyeballs in the dark and the word BOO in various sizes. I covered the offensive picture in those and trimmed the sides, during which time she'd calmed herself down a bit by watching Beach Patrol. When I showed it to her, she smiled as big as Hannah herself. The world was right again, and it was bedtime.

9.22.2008

First Item on my Christmas List


Thanks to Rachel, who saw this in the Skymall catalog on her flight home from Chicago.

9.21.2008

David Byrne


Biggy and I got to see him (for free!) last night at Chastain. Second row, no less. I'd never seen him live before--had never wanted to either. But, wow. What a wonderful, fun, inspiring show. Here is a man who, at 56, can rock the house and dance like a fiend--with a zen-like bearing. I even enjoyed the modern dance, which, as many of you know, usually just cracks me up/makes me want to puke.

Here is a review I read today that captures the spirit of the performance.

9.20.2008

Jack n Loretta


Still my favorite cd for the past 5 years.

9.19.2008

Friday Nostalgia


The year I graduated high school, 1981, this was the world I inherited.

9.17.2008

Protect Your Daughters


I've read so many references to McCain calling his wife a C U Next Tuesday lately, that I had to google it to get the scoop. It was a story I'd never heard. During my research, I came across another story I was unaware of.

9.16.2008

Further Signs


A couple of things have happened recently that are in the same category as looking for my cell phone while talking on my cell phone:

1. The other day, I was looking at the number of a missed call on my cell phone. I couldn't see the number clearly, so I put my glasses on, but they didn't make it any better. I took them off, cleaned them, and put them back on, trying again to make the number out. I was extremely frustrated, thinking my eyes were getting worse and, besides, my phone is a cheap piece of shit, with its scratched face and dim light... I was cursing loudly over all this and finally threw the glasses in the passenger seat, at which point I realized I'd been using my sunglasses.

2. Yesterday, our newlywed tenant (we have a basement apt) came up and asked to borrow my can opener. He told me both he and his wife were sick and could only eat soup. Unfortunately, they'd forgotten to buy a can opener. Being charitable when it's easy, I gave him mine and said they could just keep it for a couple of days, because I wouldn't need it until I made tuna casserole.

Well, I don't know what I was thinking, because I did end up needing it last night, for the hamburger casserole. But instead of bothering them, knowing they felt bad, I went next door and used my neighbor's. This afternoon, though, when I needed it to open cream of chicken for my chicken casserole (That's right), I decided to go down and ask to use mine. I grabbed the can of soup and went to knock on the door.

Mrs. Tenant opened it in her little pajamas, saw the can in my hand, and started apologizing for not bringing the can opener back. I explained, effusively, how sorry I was that she didn't feel well, and how much I hated to bother her. I said she could just let me use the can opener, and they could keep it for a while longer, or forever. I used the can to air-punctuate my sentences.

She kept looking at me and the can of soup with a funny look on her face but told me her hubby was picking up a can opener at the store, so I could have mine back. It wasn't until I got back into my kitchen that I noticed the can's BIG-ASS PULL TAB.

Distractions


In order to help my boss with a speech, I'm reading a book on converging media by Henry Jenkins, a big brain in media studies at MIT. He talks a lot about the idea that 'no one knows everything, but everyone knows something,' and how much more we can "know" if we share information. This concept plays out in all matters of our lives, including politics.

This research got me thinking about a quote I heard years ago from writer Sally Hogshead, "Aspire to be the dumbest person in the room." I'm surrounded by people who know and believe in that philosophy, people who would rather be stretched and challenged by those around them rather than hold court as know-it-alls, people who realize that smart people working FOR you make you even smarter.

And that got me thinking about McCain and his choice for VP. Seriously. With all the smart people he had to choose from--people who could have lifted him, stretched him, truly enhanced his position, he chose that dummy Sarah Palin.

9.14.2008

9.13.2008

They Must Be Good!


Everyone who knows me well is aware that I don't eat sweets--except for the occasional treat made with Splenda. So when Jack came home from a friend's today and saw a half-wrapped Riesen sitting next to me on the counter, he wondered:

JackMan: Are you eating candy?!

TR: No. I caught Fay chewing on it. I don't know where she found it.

JackMan: It's a Riesen! Those are awesome. I'll take it.

TR: Fay was chewing on it!

JackMan: That's ok.

(He unwraps it.)

TR: And I don't know where she found it!

(He pops it in his mouth.)

9.10.2008

It's 7 a.m. for Gripes' Sake!


Who told Suzanne she should wear a prom dress on the Today Show?

Garrison Keillor Cracks Me Up


Here's an excerpt from his essay on Salon this morning.

So the Republicans have decided to run against themselves. The bums have tiptoed out the back door and circled around to the front and started yelling, "Throw the bums out!" They've been running Washington like a well-oiled machine to the point of inviting lobbyists into the back rooms to write the legislation, and now they are anti-establishment reformers dedicated to delivering us from themselves. And Mayor Giuliani is an advocate for small-town America. Bravo.

They are coming out for Small Efficient Government the very week that the feds are taking over Fannie and Freddie, those old cash cows, and in the course of a weekend 20 or 50 (or pick a number) billion go floating out the Treasury door. Hello? Do you see us out here? We are not fruit flies, we are voters, we can read and write, we didn't just fall off the coal truck.

It is a bold move on the Republicans' part -- forget about the past, it's only history, so write a new narrative and be who you want to be -- and if they succeed, I think I might declare myself a 24-year-old virgin named Lance and see what that might lead to. Paste a new face on my Facebook page, maybe become the Dauphin Louie the Thirty-Second, the rightful heir to the Throne of France, put on silk tights and pantaloons and a plumed hat and go on the sawdust circuit and sell souvenir hankies imprinted with the royal fleur-de-lis. They will cure neuralgia and gout and restore marital vigor...

9.09.2008

Cheesy Taco Hamburger Helper


In case you wondered what we ended up having last night.

9.08.2008

I Can Answer That


When Biggy got home this afternoon:

Biggy: What's the plan for this evening?

TR: You and I are going to the Y to work out?

Biggy: When?

TR: I dunno. Now?

Biggy: What's for dinner?

TR: Either you can grill chicken breasts or I can make Hamburger Helper. It's up to you.

Biggy: Let me ask you a hypothetical question.

TR: Shoot.

Biggy: Let's say a man gets his wife cooking lessons for Christmas. Would that be a nice gift, or would it be considered an insult?

On Politics and Metaphor


I've been a fan of George Lakoff since I came across some of his articles while researching the power of storytelling and metaphor for a class a few years ago. Thanks to Jeneva at Busily Seeking...Continual Change, I just saw this piece on Tikkun. I'm pasting it here to save you all the trouble of clicking a link. Also, it keeps you on my blog longer, which inflates my stats and hence my ego.

Here 'tis:

George Lakoff argues that the Republican choice of Palin makes total sense if you truly understand the strategy of the Republicans in this election.


The Palin Choice
The Reality of the Political Mind
by George Lakoff

This election matters because of realities-the realities of global warming, the economy, the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, civil liberties, species extinction, poverty here and around the world, and on and on. Such realities are what make this election so very crucial, and how to deal with them is the substance of the Democratic platform .

Election campaigns matter because who gets elected can change reality. But election campaigns are primarily about the realities of voters' minds, which depend on how the candidates and the external realities are cognitively framed. They can be framed honestly or deceptively, effectively or clumsily. And they are always framed from the perspective of a worldview.

The Obama campaign has learned this. The Republicans have long known it, and the choice of Sarah Palin as their Vice-Presidential candidate reflects their expert understanding of the political mind and political marketing. Democrats who simply belittle the Palin choice are courting disaster. It must be t aken with the utmost seriousness.

The Democratic responses so far reflect external realities: she is inexperienced, knowing little or nothing about foreign policy or national issues; she is really an anti-feminist, wanting the government to enter women's lives to block abortion, but not wanting the government to guarantee equal pay for equal work, or provide adequate child health coverage, or child care, or early childhood education; she shills for the oil and gas industry on drilling; she denies the scientific truths of global warming and evolution; she misuses her political authority; she opposes sex education and her daughter is pregnant; and, rather than being a maverick, she is on the whole a radical right-wing ideologue.

All true, so far as we can tell.

But such truths may nonetheless be largely irrelevant to this campaign. That is the lesson Democrats must learn. They must learn the reality of the political mind.

The Obama campaign has done this very well so far. The convention events and speeches were orchestrated both to cast light on external realities, traditional political themes, and to focus on values at once classically American and progressive: empathy, responsibility both for oneself and others, and aspiration to make things better both for oneself and the world. Obama did all this masterfully in his nomination speech, while replying to, and undercutting, the main Republican attacks.

But the Palin nomination changes the game. The initial response has been to try to keep the focus on external realities, the "issues," and differences on the issues. But the Palin nomination is not basically about external realities and what Democrats call "issues," but about the symbolic mechanisms of the political mind-the worldviews, frames, metaphors, cultural narratives, and stereotypes. The Republicans can't win on realities. Her job is to speak the language of conservatism, activate the conservative view of the world, and use the advantages that conservatives have in dominating political discourse.

Our national political dialogue is fundamentally metaphorical, with family values at the center of our discourse. There is a reason why Obama and Biden spoke so much about the family, the nurturant family, with caring fathers and the family values that Obama put front and center in his Father's day speech: empathy, responsibility and aspiration. Obama's reference in the nomination speech to "The American Family" was hardly accidental, nor were the references to the Obama and Biden families as living and fulfilling the American Dream. Real nurturance requires strength and toughness, which Obama displayed in body language and voice in his responses to McCain. The strength of the Obama campaign has been the seamless marriage of reality and symbolic thought.

The Republican strength has been mostly symbolic. The McCain campaign is well aware of how Reagan and W won-running on character: values, communicatio n, (apparent) authenticity, trust, and identity - not issues and policies. That is how campaigns work, and symbolism is central.

Conservative family values are strict and apply via metaphorical thought to the nation: good vs. evil, authority, the use of force, toughness and discipline, individual (versus social) responsibility, and tough love. Hence, social programs are immoral because they violate discipline and individual responsibility. Guns and the military show force and discipline. Man is above nature; hence no serious environmentalism. The market is the ultimate financial authority, requiring market discipline. In foreign policy, strength is use of the force. In fundamentalist religion, the Bible is the ultimate authority; hence no gay marriage. Such values are at the heart of radical conservatism. This is how John McCain was raised and how he plans to govern. And it is what he shares with Sarah Palin.

Palin is the mom in the strict father family, upholding conservative values. Palin is tough: she shoots, skins, and eats caribou. She is disciplined: raising five kids with a major career. She lives her values: she has a Downs-syndrome baby that she refused to abort. She has the image of the ideal conservative mom: pretty, perky, feminine, Bible-toting, and fitting into the ideal conservative family. And she fits the stereotype of America as small-town America. It is Reagan's morning-in-America image. Where Obama thought of capturing the West, she is running for Sweetheart of the West.

And Palin, a member of Feminists For Life, is at the heart of the conservative feminist movement, which Ronee Schreiber has written about in her recent book, Righting Feminism. It is a powerful and growing movement that Democrats have barely paid attention to.
At the same time, Palin is masterful at the Republican game of taking the Democrats' language and reframing it-putting conservative frames to progressive words: Reform, prosperity, peace. She is also masterful at using the progressive narratives: she's from the working class, working her way up from hockey mom and the PTA to Mayor, Governor, and VP candidate. Her husband is a union member. She can say to the conservative populists that she is one of them-all the things that Obama and Biden have been saying. Bottom-up, not top-down.

Yes, the McCain-Palin ticket is weak on the major realities. But it is strong on the symbolic dimension of politics that Republicans are so good at marketing. Just arguing the realities, the issues, the hard truths should be enough in times this bad, but the political mind and its response to symbolism cannot be ignored. The initial Democratic response to Palin - the response based on realities alone - indicates that many Democrats have not learned the lessons of the Reagan and Bush years.

They have not learned the nature of conservative populism. A great many working-class folks are what I call "bi-conceptual," that is, they are split between conservative and progressive modes of thought. Conservative on patriotism and certain social and family issues, which they have been led to see as "moral", progressive in loving the land, living in communities of care, and practical kitchen table issues like mortgages, health care, wages, retirement, and so on.
Conservative theorists won them over in two ways: Inventing and promulgating the idea of "liberal elite" and focusing campaigns on social and family issues. They have been doing this for many years and have changed a lot of brains through repetition. Palin will appeal strongly to conservative populists, attacking Obama and Biden as pointy-headed, tax-and-spend, latte liberals. The tactic is to divert attention from difficult realities to powerful symbolism.

What Democrats have shied away from is a frontal attack on radical conservatism itself as an un-American and harmful ideology. I think Obama is right when he says that America is based on people caring about each other and working together for a better future-empathy, responsibility (both personal and social), and aspiration. These lead to a concept of government based on protection (environmental, consumer, worker, health care, and retirement protection) and empowerment (through infrastructure, public education, the banking system, the stock market, and the courts). Nobody can achieve the American Dream or live an American lifestyle without protection and empowerment by the government.20The alternative, as Obama said in his nomination speech, is being on your own, with no one caring for anybody else, with force as a first resort in foreign affairs, with threatened civil liberties and a right-wing government making your most important decisions for you. That is not what American democracy has ever been about.

What is at stake in this election are our ideals and our view of the future, as well as current realities. The Palin choice brings both front and center. Democrats, being Democrats, will mostly talk about the realities nonstop without paying attention to the dimensions of values and symbolism. Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney. They share values antithetical to our democracy. That needs to be said loud and clear, if not by the Obama campaign itself, then by the rest of us who share democratic American values.

Our job is to bring external realities together with the reality of the political mind. Don't ignore the cognitive dimension. It is through cultural narratives, metaphors, and frames that we understand and express our ideals.

George Lakoff is the author of The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 20th Century Politics With an 18th Century Brain


9.06.2008

Fall Season Begins



Lola moved up to 10-and-Under slow pitch softball this season. In this age bracket, the girls actually pitch--no more coach-pitching.

So it goes like this: First, the pitcher rolls the ball around in her glove until she can get it just the way she likes it in her hand. Next, she puts one foot behind the other, leans back and adjusts her knees until she achieves a perfect keep-on-truckin' stance. After that, she holds her arm out, closes one eye, and aims the ball. Finally, she takes a step forward while swinging her arm backward then forward, and releases the ball.

The ball then rolls over the plate or lands three feet in front of it, whereupon it is retrieved by the catcher, who throws it back to the pitcher, who misses it.

The short stop and third baseman chase the runaway ball and then each kindly waits for the other to pick it up. One finally steps to the task and throws the ball to the pitcher, who catches it 50% of the time on this second toss.

The pitching ritual begins again, and so it goes until the batter walks. Every fifth batter or so, there is some deviation to the routine as someone who's in a hurry to get to Chic-fil-A swings at everything and strikes out.

The game lasts for an hour, during which time only three innings are played.

9.04.2008

Same School, Same Dog


New office.

Priceless

Where's The Application?



Last night, Lo and I were watching Super Nanny, an episode where the family had twin six-year-old boys and a five-year-old girl who pitched epic fits at the dinner table and couldn't wipe their own asses. As appalled as Jo was, Lo was fascinated.

Lo: How old was I when I started wiping myself?

TR: Too old. Four, I think. You could skate and ride a bike.

Lo: Wow. How long do you think that kid will sit at the table not eating her carrots? Just eat 'em already.

TR: You're one to talk. Look--she's starting to nod off. That's right; send her straight to bed.

(Cutting to commercial, they flash the website and call to apply for the show)

TR: Ooh, I'm SO gonna sign us up. See if she can straighten you out.

Lo: Whatever. I would just behave while she's here. You'll look like the one with the problem.

TR: I don't think you could do it.

Lo: Be glad you don't have fourthlets.

TR: Huh?

Lo: What's it called when you have four babies?

TR: Quadruplets.

Lo: How about twelve?

TR: Suicide.

9.02.2008

Stella After My Own Heart



When I was a kid, I'd hide (hoard) my cookies or pop-tarts or whatever until my sister was finished with hers, and then I'd brag about still having mine, eating slowly in front of her. I was such a bitch.

Oh, that's Biggy's nice white dress shirt, by the way. If only he could remember what the hamper is for.

9.01.2008

Too Tired to Blog

so you'll have to settle for this tonight:


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