Friday, December 05, 2008

Craft Night!

I had a delightful evening yesterday with some old friends and some new at a newly formed (at least as far as I know) weekly Craft Night. I had a hole in a sock I'd knit and a new friend helped me fix it. I made good headway on the socks I have on the needles and just had an amazing time.

Growing up, I always had small groups of friends with very intense friendships. But in college, I didn't really meet a lot of new people because so many high school classmates continued on to U of O. Admittedly, I became friends with a different group of people, but we many of us knew each other before college. And since college, most of my friends have moved away, so I haven't really hung out with people on a regular basis in a few years. To be honest, I didn't really notice. Probably because it wasn't like everyone was getting together and I felt excluded; it's hard to have a dinner party with invitees from Astoria, Eugene, Portland, Boston, DC, Baltimore, LA and Japan. But hanging out with this group of women last night made me realize how much I miss the friends that have moved away and how nice it is to, well, meet new people and socially interact.

This week was hosted by a friend from high school (A.) who I hadn't seen in years and years before a birthday party a couple weeks ago. She hosted at her parents' house in SE and man, it felt like going home. Anyone who grew up in SE or NE Portland* (at least around the time that I did) knows what I mean: the house that feels familiar and welcoming from the first moment you cross the threshold because it's truly a home. That lived-in feeling, tons of family photos and artwork, warm light, the smell of delicious cooking... It's the kind of house I grew up in. A's parents were sooo nice! It was weird to feel like a kid again but entirely internally. And to evaluate an initial experience as though I were 16. All I can do is hope that when Pete and I are ready to have kids, we can create that kind of environment for them.

*I'm sure this happens everywhere, but the old Portland homes in inner SE and NE have a particular feel. I couldn't explain it if I tried - some mix of architecture, age and people.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


This morning I made Pete a crepe filling out of his favorite potassium-rich fruits: bananas and dates. I thought I'd post it here because it was really simple and he seemed to enjoy it. Please note: the dates need to be high quality. We used so-so dates and they were not so great. But Pete said that he things with better dates it would work. I think you'd need to go with really moist and juice unpitted dates. Pitted dates seem to be all dried out in the middle.

Bananas Foster (Kind Of)
This recipe makes enough filling for two 10" crepes.

2 tbsp salted butter
2 bananas, sliced into coins
4 average sized dates or 3 large dates, diced
1/4 c. brown sugar (we used dark brown, but I bet light brown works just as well)
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Heat a medium-sized pan over medium until well and truly hot.
2. Add the butter to the center of the pan and melt.
3. Add the bananas and dates. Toss gently to coat.
4. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon.
5. Toss gently to coat. (You can use a spoon to stir/flip, but the bananas need a gentle touch.)
6. Cook 2-3 minutes, until bananas are cooked through and brown sugar has melted into a gorgeous, sticky brown sauce.
7. Serve as crepe filling or over vanilla ice cream with candied walnuts.

Other ideas:
  • To make it more summery, add shredded coconut or another tropical fruit.
  • OR serve with coconut ice cream
  • To make it more autumnal, add a pinch of cloves and a pinch of nutmeg for that pumpkin pie flavor
  • OR make a pumpkin-flavored custard to accompany this sorta-bananas-foster in the crepe
Please to enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Contest!

Have you ever had Dove Promises, the chocolate squares whose foil wrapper has an important message about the future, your love life, chocolate or some weird mash-up of all three? If you haven't, go buy some: they're hilarious and delicious! If you have, then I'll assume you'll agree with me that the messages are pretty stupid. I misread one today as "A simile is the perfect gift, personal and encouraging."

So here is the contest: Suggestions For Future Dove Promise Wrappers.

How does it work? You suggest new slogans/promises/whimsical messages for these candy wrappers. If they're funny, praise will be heaped upon you! If they're not, ridicule is yours to endure!

What do you win? Nothing. This is a blog, guys, not Chinook Winds.

Here are some examples from actual candy foils:
  • Love is always the perfect gift.
  • Joy is contagious.
  • Your presence is often the best present.
  • Friendship is a gift in itself.
  • A smile is the perfect gift, personal and encouraging.
Here is an example entry from Pete:
  • Here's a promise: these will make you fat.
So, you know, Have At It!

Goddamnit, Apple

Why is it so hard to crop photos in iPhoto? It is the only software on my Mac that I truly and deeply hate. Although iTunes is working very hard at pissing me off.

iPhoto: get it together. It's easier to crop and resize pictures using the software that came with my camera. You have to work at being that crappy, so please stop trying so hard. Maybe be just a little annoying, like how the photos I've uploaded into my Pictures file aren't automatically added to my iPhoto library. You can keep that "feature." Just let me crop and edit without trauma. And maybe remind me that when I hit "save" to keep the cropping I finally got to work (with no small amount of swearing and threatening my MacBook with bodily harm, I might add) that you're replacing the copy of the photo in my library and maybe ask me if I'd like to save the cropped version as a copy rather than replacing the original.

I swear, if I didn't have to pay to upload more than 100mb of picture a month with Flickr, I would stop using iPhoto all together. As it is, I think I'm going to need a Valium before any future use.

(Also: why is it that when I add a picture on my goddamn blog it always inserts it at the beginning of the post? I'm so fawking sorry I'm not a goddamned expert at HTML, Blog Interface! Arrrgh!

Erm... I'm going to go have a little lie down now and try to calm my burgeoning inner technophobe.)

Friday, November 21, 2008


the country version of the Blazer's song sucks.

So very, very much.

Omigod: please play something else. This weak sauce is making me regret the invention of music.


I have recently given up on computer games in favor of knitting. This is partly because it's finally cold enough that I want to sit around with a pile of wool on my lap. But it's also because the OCD piece of my personality is cyclical in nature and obsesses in waves.

Mostly I've been knitting socks.

Socks for me.

Socks for Pete.

Socks for no one because I'm not sure I can stand the yarn/pattern combination enough to knit the second sock. (I like the way they look, but the yarn is too slippery and the pattern made a very poochy heel. Also, you may note a hole that was created by not-my-favorite-heel-instructions-ever.)

I may write another post or two about knitting, but just in case anyone was curious as to what happened to me post-election, the answer is: Socks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Things I didn't know we'd lost

Obama has given us our patriotism back. I just... I mean... Just watch this video. It's incredible. Portland, so-called "Beirut West," is so proud, so happy to be an American city. It always has been, but suddenly that has a whole new meaning and its people are taking back some of the symbols of the "real America/fake America" rhetoric that's become so popular over the last eight years. Perhaps most amazing? They're doing so without irony, without kitsch; they're just genuinely, authentically overjoyed. And you're welcome to join them.

Some observations on our more perfect union

Listening to Obama speak last night, I was very impressed by how inclusive he remained. "How can anyone not like this man?" I thought. Really: how can anyone not love him? He's a thoughtful, measured leader with a wide smile who didn't once choose valedictory giddiness over calm reassurance that he has a plan and it includes everyone.

Then I checked into Facebook and saw that a friend's status was "I'm so proud of my country right now." And I thought, "Oh my God: Obama is going to make it okay to be patriotic again." In recent history, it seems like Americans either Love America Without Question or hate America. This is, of course, artificial. But I think there are a lot of people who felt like any criticism of the US by its citizens amounted to treason. And a lot of people who felt like any vocalization of love for such a flawed country amounted to idiocy. I know: that's an over simplification. But my point is this: I think Obama has the potential to make critical patriotism okay, to unite the divide the Republican party has worked so long and hard to cultivate.

And now some observations that I don't really have time to weave into a narrative here, with like, transitions and linking sentences and stuff.

Observation 1) This year many GOP candidates (most notably, Sarah Palin) have been talking about a "Real America" and, well, they never really gave the other America a name. In the past, they've used the phrase "the blame America first crowd." In any case, the GOP has promoted the idea of two Americas who are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive.

Observation 2) For the past decade (at the very least), the Republican party has actively worked to suppress the vote. They do not believe everyone is equally qualified to vote and would prefer two classes of citizens. While those two classes really amount to Those That Agree With Us (qualified) and Those That Don't (unqualified), they are also about class (upper class/middle- and lower class), race (white/non-white), age (older/younger) and location (central/coastal). It is another way of dividing American in two.

Observation 3) The Republican party was born out of a need for two diametrically opposed parties. Americans watched as the Whigs and the Know Nothings tore themselves apart from the inside over the issue of slavery while the democrats remained relatively intact. (At least this is my understanding of things.) The Republican party was anti-slavery. It drew a line in the sand and said, "There are two Americas." We interpret this now as an obvious moral distinction, "One is right and one is wrong," but it was an economic distinction as well. It was about the place of industrialization, modernization, states' rights, federal jurisdiction... The country was clearly heading for a rift and any party with a cohesive internal belief system was going to end up on one side or the other. The Republican party has been about choosing sides since its beginnings.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mixed Messages (Sorry this is crazy long - I suck at the whole brevity thing)

Last night I watched a couple hours of TLC: first, a show on what happened to two girls who were once in child pageants called "Painted Babies at 17;" and second, "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant."

I meant to mention the first one only in passing - child pageants are creepy - but there's actually a little more to it than that. One of the girls has continuously competed in pageants since age 5 and has won tens of thousand of dollars will no discernible skills other than keeping a plastic smile pasted on her face while being serenaded by a very weird pageant MC. The other quit pageants at 7, goes to an expensive boarding school and works for minimum wage at a local buffet diner in Appalachia. At first I thought the point was going to be that the girl who quit is better adjusted and is focusing on a real future (career as a tv news anchor), while the other wants to get married and have a big family. (She also had some career aspiration, but I forget what. I remember thinking it was something like Medical Assistant, which I think of as a career you have to make money on your way to something else, not something you dream of being at 17.)

As the program progressed, they began to reveal more about the circumstances in which the two girls find themselves. The one who quit didn't just up and quit out of the blue at 7 after winning thousands of dollars and a car with more than 20 titles: her little brother was born with disabilities and her mom didn't have time to devote to pageanting any more. Although they never say it (BBC4 is too subtle for that), the clear message is: "Baby pageants are driven by the mothers and that's all there is to it. Little girls would never choose to do this on their own." The girl who continued in pageants, meanwhile, did so with the support and participation of both parents until she was 15, when her parents divorced. At least that's how they described it in the beginning. Later they gave more detail. Her father, Boo (no - I'm not making that up), just walked out on his wife and seven children one day and 10 months later married some other woman. They ask her if she misses him, if she ever sees him, if it's hard. It's all very tasteful and non-exploitative. And then explaining why she doesn't see her dad, she says, "Well, the state took out a restraining order on him, so..." The interviewer asks something and she says, "Oh, it was real bad, he was real abusive mentally... emotionally... physically..." She kind of swallows the last adverb and her grandmother swoops in with, "He was a real bad sort." Or something along those lines.

I think this is interesting because there didn't seem to be a clear message any more by the end of the program. At the beginning, I would have said that the theme was "pageants are bad for little girls, they're creepy, and they turn Moms into raving lunatics." By the middle, it seemed to have moved to "Pageants may be creepy, but they make bank, and if you're a poor family with seven kids, having one or two little beauty queens might be your best bet for a new car." It was sympathetic. By the end, though, it painted both girls as victims of circumstance. Certainly one has a brighter future, with real world goals. One could argue that she was either saved or robbed by her brother's disabilities. The other girl, though... It seemed to conclude that she was a survivor and this was what she knew how to do. She's burdened by family obligations, she had an abusive dad who ran off and this is how she's dealing with her emotional scars. So, are pageants creepy? Yes. But maybe that's not the worst thing you have to deal with?

The other program, "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," is about women who didn't know they were pregnant until they went into labor. It had some serious message problems. They make a big deal over the fact that none of these women had any prenatal care. "And without prenatal care, she may have endangered her baby's life without even realizing it." Well, duh. She didn't know there was a baby, guys. And I think this is an important message. (Prenatal care: it's good for fetuses.)

But they also make a big deal about the fact that all of these women went into labor at home (again: duh, they didn't know they were pregnant). The message is, "Babies will die if they are not born in a hospital. With an OB. With a mother lying supine, in a hospital gown. Seriously, without these things babies cannot be born and survive." I think this point of view is totally misleading. The risk in these pregnancies was not because they didn't arrive at the hospital until late in their trial of labor; the risk is that they didn't know they were pregnant and thought they were dying of tumors or organ rupture or something. Additionally, no mention is made of the fact that all five women profiled were overweight. Well, one of them has "obesity" described as a risk factor for her pregnancy. But it seemed like maybe it was worth mentioning for all of them. Perhaps I'm just judgemental, but if we're going to talk about risks and pregnancy, I think obesity (and it's BFFs "hypertension" and "gestational diabetes") would figure high on the list.

Where does the message get mixed?, you may be wondering. Okay, all this talk about risk risk risk. But for each woman, they say, "Luckily, she quit taking birth control and never drank or smoked throughout her pregnancy." Only one woman delivers prematurely; she has twins at 30 weeks. That's very early (by about 10 weeks), but after lung development. And twins are often born prematurely (although not necessarily that prematurely). So over the course of the show they build a profile of a risky pregnancy for you: no prenatal care, labor outside a hospital. And then they totally undermine it by only showing healthy, happy resulting families.

What really got me was that at the end of the show. There's a title card that says "In loving memory of..." someone, but went by too quickly for me to read. So I rewound and paused. It was in loving memory of one of the premature twins. !! So one of these pregnancies did not have a happy outcome; one of those poor twins died less that three months after her traumatic birth. Here is your message about the importance of prenatal care, TLC! Here is your example of why you should take care of yourself, keep your weight and blood pressure under control! And all that poor baby gets is passing mention because, well, it's a downer.

Anyway, while I thought both programs were interesting, I think maybe not for the reasons intended. Both shows were produced ostensibly to be both educational and a little sensational. Fine - prenatal care good; baby pageants bad. But it was like they lost their nerve about 2/3 of the way through. Uh, prenatal care good, but, um, nothing bad ever happens to babies. Baby pageants bad, but, erm, we guess they're better than developmental disabilities and child abuse. Unless they are a form of child abuse. LALAlalalalala - I can't hear you!

Is this a symptom of something larger growing in our culture? News outlets seem to have a hard time with issues that really only have one perspective. "Human trafficking: we know the sex slaves hate it, but how do the pimps and coyotes feel?" No! There is only one perspective on this. Human trafficking: it's really bad. And also illegal. And immoral. That is the perspective. Are we now pulling punches on educational programming as well? Where does this take us? Today we have High Risk Pregnancies With Zero Risk Outcomes - Don't Worry, Careless Ladies: Evidently You Have Nothing To Fear. And tomorrow? STDs: Maybe They Suck, or Maybe You Love Having Sores On Your Genitals, We Really Couldn't Say. Sometimes things have unhappy endings. Sometimes things are bad and they make you feel sad. But that's part of life. Maybe we should bring back all the old fairy tales where children are lured into the woods and eaten because they ignored their parents, but update them for the issues we face now. I will leave you with my attempt. Keep in mind, I'm going for pastiche here. Terms like "fetal alcohol syndrome" and "hip dysplasia" don't really fit the rhythm.

Blue Belle and The Unrecognized Pregnancy

There once was a girl named Blue Belle, for her eyes were the loveliest shade of sky blue. She was well loved and indulged in her every desire by everyone throughout her young life. But as she blossomed into the flower of womanhood, she found her desires had grown beyond the healthful norm and she suffered for it.

First, she grew overlarge as she indulged in great quantities of food and drink. "More wine!" she called. "More mutton! More pies!" But never more vegetables; never more fruit. The old village wise woman clucked her tongue and said, "You should eat rich treats in moderation, my girl! They'll poison you from the inside if you don't!" But Belle just laughed her tinkling laugh and shouted for more beer.

When food and drink began to bore her, she began to crave entertainment. "More shows! More performers!" she cried from her couch. And no one could deny those sparkling blue eyes, that gay and ringing voice, those perfect smiling lips. Except the old wise woman, who again admonished: "You should get up and see the world for yourself. Go out into it - explore, meet new people, make your own entertainment. If you don't, your world will be very small indeed and you'll never quite fit in it." But Blue Belle just shushed her as the next performance began.

And when she had seen every show, witnessed every performance, she found that she was filled with lust, especially for one man against whom she had been warned by every other woman in the village. She took up with this young man, covered in tattoos, coarse of language, boorish and uneducated, and for a time they were very happy. They drank and ate and smoked and made love together day in, day out. The old wise woman shouted up to her window, "He's made you no promises, nor you him! Without commitment there can be no real trust - only foolish blindness!" Blue Belle simply shut the windows and drew the curtains.

Eventually Blue Belle began to notice that she was missing her womanly cycles. "No matter," said she. "I am very anxious about life. Where will I find more entertainment? Who will bring me a delicious pie? Where is my beer? Why does everyone whisper about me behind my back?"

For the better part of a year Blue Belle lived this way, until one day her anxiety seemed to take root in her back and belly and began to rip through her in waves of nauseous pain. "Oh, oh! I am rent in twain!" she cried. Her tattooed beau ran for the doctor who attended her posthaste. After seeing the condition Blue Belle was in, and knowing of her habits and her past, he sent for the village midwife.

Upon her arrival, the midwife smiled down at the pained and crumpled Blue Belle and told her the happy news. "You are not being rent in twain! You're having a baby!" Blue Belle's eyes sparkled with momentary relief, and then grew dull with renewed anxiety. "But I'm not ready for a child! Where will it live? How shall I feed it?" The midwife smiled kindly. "Don't you worry. I'm sure your young man will help you provide for your child and you'll make room. You'll make due. These things always work out."

But things were not going well for Blue Belle. Her eating and drinking with abandon had made her fat and unhealthy. Her heart raced, her blood pumped through her veins with ferocity, and she felt weak. Her obsession with entertainers and performers had kept her housebound for some many months, and her joints were not used to a wide range of motion. As the baby pushed and shoved its way into the world, she felt her body tearing, her hips popping, her life draining.

As the midwife caught the baby, the smile faded from her face. The baby made no sound and the woman turned away from Blue Belle and conferred with the doctor. The doctor sent for the wise woman. Upon her arrival, she took the baby from the midwife and clucked her tongue at the sickly new mother. "It's as I said it would be. Your insides are poisoned - look at you! And your baby is poisoned as well." Still the baby made no sound. "What's wrong with it?" cried Blue Belle. "It's a syphilitic, like it's mother. Without commitment, there is only foolish blindness! You blinded yourself to that man's failings, and where is he now?" Blue Belle looked around but he was gone. Her azure eyes filled with tears. The wise woman did not relent. "It's also very small and clearly suffers from your alcoholism. It may well be brain damaged, but we shall never know because it has expired its last breath before even taking it's first." Blue Belle cried and cried, suddenly alone in her very tiny world.

The wise woman sat on the bed and took Blue Belle's head in her lap. "If only I had listened," Blue Belle wept. "If only I had taken my pleasures in moderation and sought to better myself. If only I had been the least bit..." but she could say no more, for she too had expired.

From her burial mound in the local graveyard, a rose bush grew and bloomed with the loveliest pale blue roses, but only for a season, and then they too were gone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin's Gender Roles

Rachel Maddow showed a clip from a Sarah Palin speech given yesterday in a location that isn't New Mexico where Palin takes "Joe the Plumber" to the next level. Now everyone, according to Maddow, is [Name] The [Occupation]. Palin gives two lists: people she's met on the campaign trail and signs being waved in the hall where she's speaking. Her list of people she's supposedly met tells me a lot about her concept of gender roles. She's chosen occupations that are architypical and sometimes old timey.
  • Ed the Dairyman
  • Tito the Builder
  • Phil the Bricklayer
  • Rose the Teacher
  • Corinna the Nurse
Now contrast that with the people who are at her rally or speech or whatever (as read from the signs they're waving.
  • Anne the Engineer
  • Dave the Cop
  • Jeffery the Hockey Player
  • Jon the Only Republican in My High School
It's interesting to me that she chose architypal occupations, confirming that the whole "Joe the Plumber" thing is, for them, about wooing people whose primary concerns are those of business. And men are builders and bricklayers and dairymen. Women are teachers and nurses. The people at her rally (or whatever), however, did not choose architypal occupations because they chose either their actual occupation or something else that they think defines them. And the first one (at least in Maddow's clip) indicates that Palin's "women are teachers and nurses" view is not our reality any longer. Anne the Engineer. I like it.

If it were anyone else, I would admit that it is patently unfair to judge someone on the content of one excerpted speech. But Palin has stuck me as a kind of unintentional truth-teller. Her pagent-style of question answering (just keep talking! fluently! about anything, it doesn't matter!) lets things slip all the time. And, frankly, I just don't think she's all that bright. I mean, telling everyone that the campaign moved out of Michigan without consulting it's VP pick who had to email her runningmate, "Oh c'mon, do we have to?" is just so obviously a terrible idea. But it let us know exactly where she stands with the campaign behind closed doors. And I think this is the same kind of thing. When she's most comfortable, she's most revealing. She's working with some very old material, like 1960s style. Yes, women work, but primarily at one of two jobs.

Campaign lit

I'm trying a new thing: short posts. It's very hard for me, as a natural-born bloviator. Normally I would wax philosophical (read: gripe) about all the campaign lit making it our way, what it means, why it's nutty, how badly they've missed their target audience... But instead I'm just going to mention the one thing that actually caught my eye from a Yes on 57 ad.
Measure 61 is a failed, one-size-fits-all approach to crime.
Measure 57 has some things we really need. It targets repeat offenders of crimes like identity theft and requires drug treatment.
I read that and laughed to myself. "Oh, who put this together? 'One-size-fits-all is bad! Make all identity thieves get drug treatment!' A+, guys! Like drug treatment is really going to cure repeat identity thieves." Then I read the next sentence.
About 85% of offenders in jail for property crime have drug and alcohol addictions.
You know, that really took the wind out of my imaginings about the one identity thief who isn't a drug addict being required by law to attend NA meetings. Sails. (Sorry - broken metaphor, broken sentence.) He's all, "No, really guys. I do not do drugs." And they're all, "Sure you don't, buddy. Look: you flunked the 'I don't do drugs' test. You stole credit card numbers." And he's like, "But I wanted them to feed my internet porn addiction!" And at about that time my brain registered, "wow, 85%? really?" That's a pretty good idea, drug treatment, if that stat is true.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Doucheyest commercials ever

Have you seen those "rotoscoped" Charles Schwab Commercials? They are the douchiest commercials in the history of douchbaggery. I thought the one good thing the on-coming depression (oh, sorry - Depression) would do is end that insufferable "I'm rich, whiny and a cartoon all for no good reason" ad campaign. Alas, that is not the case. I saw a new one last night, which I don't see on YouTube yet. It's a guy opening a bottle of wine (zing!) and smugly talking about how he's so not worried about his investments. Seriously: if I had any money, those ads alone would have me looking everywhere else before Schwab for my investment needs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CNN has slow readers

It seems like every day CNN has a new headline related to "Marcia Brady." I think that someone there is reading Maureen McCormick's memoir very slowly and everyday is posting some new tidbit from whatever chapter they've managed to complete. Here is today's: "Marcia Brady says set was 'hormone city'." I did a search to see what the previous ones were, but CNN has the worst search engine ever. And I'm lazy. So you'll just have to take my word for it: someone at CNN is reading a memoir full of rather obvious revelations very, very slowly and they'd like you to know about it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Your full emotional spectrum in one drive

I know - two posts in one day. But the other post was so very very crappy, we'll just pretend it doesn't exist. Have you driven up Powell blvd recently? (No need to answer, People Who Don't Live In Portland. This is a rhetorical question for you.) We had not in quite some time, but today took it from 39th to the I-205 entrance at 82nd. Anything you have ever felt - happiness, appreciation for beauty, sadness, depression, befuddlement, total confusion, ire, rage, amusement - you will feel again in those 43 blocks. I am not kidding - it's a roller coaster for the brain.

Okay, you pretty much have to start out happy. I may have lied about the full spectrum being on Powell itself. Unless you super love Safeway or restaurants with weird names (see befuddlement below). And for most people, they get happiness once they hit amusement. But let's assume you start out happy because you're going somewhere you want to be going (like to REI to get a cycling-specific balaclava).

What is with those weird parking areas on the south side of the street? What is up with that? They're so completely awful! In fact, they're so awful that you almost don't notice you're on a tree-lined boulevard complete with planted medians.

Someone told me once that those odd parking islands were created to encourage shoppers and build Powell up as a shopping district. The idea was that you'd increase commerce if people had a place to park and it would be better for the neighborhood if shoppers weren't parked in front of houses just off Powell. Here are the problems with this set up, if that is indeed true: 1) all the "shopping" is on the other side of the street. And from the large cement retaining walls behind the little parking areas, I think that's how it was intended. 2) Powell is a four lane highway with few protected cross-walks. 3) Most of the commercial buildings on the north side of the street have their own little parking lots.

Appreciation for Beauty
You almost don't notice the trees on Powell, but at a certain point (maybe around 70th?) the blue sky is filled with riotous yellow leaves. So long as you look up, your heart swells.

This really goes with the depression. It just makes you sad to know that once upon a time someone had great hopes for Powell. They planted trees, they zoned light commercial, they probably even encouraged the development of local neighborhood and business associations. And for what? It's dirty and dingy. Everyone seems resigned to life behind a cement retaining wall, the neighborhood hiding from the expected noise the busy little shopping district was meant to generate.

There are always some kind of traffic shenanigans going on along Powell. Pedestrians run out into traffic like common squirrels; drivers make sudden, violent and thoroughly unheralded left turns; cars with no functioning brake lights cause others to stop short; the list goes on. We did not actually suffer rage ourselves; but some of the drivers stuck behind the two cars waiting for the police to come after their rear-ender in the center lane seemed to be pretty full of rage. Although we didn't feel it, we did at least see it, and that's something, right?

We did feel ire, though. After we made it past the minor accident slowdown, the woman ahead of us decided to stop a full car-length back from the line. While that didn't make a difference to us, it did effect someone behind us because they couldn't quite get passed the accident detritus until the light changed, which slowed things down further. That's so irritating - just rude.

I love this restaurant name: Dream Cafe & More. I tried to accurately represent the relative sizes of the fonts, like the "& More" is being whispered. There was a pumpkin patch with lots of hay bales and some bouncy castles to draw in kids. There was a sign that read:
Corn Stock
For Sale
Pete asks, "Do you think they mean 'corn stalks'?" I like the possibility that spelling was not the author's problem. S/he wanted people to invest in his/her corn. S/he had a supply of corn s/he wanted to sell. S/he did not have any suped up models of corn on hand.

Depression, Again
Pete pointed out a girl walking along with two nasty, dirty, swarthy looking men. She was several inches taller, very slender and pretty, wearing a tight pink hoodie, a short very cream-colored skirt and shimmery tights. It was the skirt Pete pointed out. "Do you think that's an ice-skater's skirt?" That is exactly what it looked like. It fell to just below her butt (or where a butt would be if she had one), was kind of pleated/ruffle-y full, and had some kind of gold trim along the bottom. Pete says, "Prostitute, do you think?" I said, "I dunno. I mean, she looked pretty healthy." (Most of the hookers we see around 82nd look like they're hooking to feed a pretty nasty drug habit - all pock-marked and lurching.) "And," I continued, "she wasn't, like, trying to be sexy at all. She wasn't wearing a ton of visible make-up. Her hair was pretty boring. It looked like she was just walking along with two dudes. My guess? Russian. Tall, slender, elegant, mixing sportswear with what could be nightclub-wear but is really more misappropriated sportswear. I bet those guys were relatives." But it's pretty depressing to see a pretty girl walking along the street and because she's with two kind of gnarly guys, assume she's a hooker.

Total Confusion
And then we crossed 90th. And we saw this. Guess what it is? It's just sitting there on the north side on Powell, at 92nd. Next to the I-205 on-ramp, almost under an overpass. Go on: guess!

The Columbia School of English. Yeah, I have no idea why. Do you think they built that building for themselves? It reminds me of that episode of South Park where the Persians want to take over the local lesbian bar and Mrs. Garrison freaks out because they'll do up the whole place in columns and gold curtain rods.

See above

Heirloom Tomatoes Have Funny Names

A certain friend in medical school had a quote involving (but not really about) heirloom tomatoes as his facebook status and that reminded me that cooking light had a great guide to heirloom tomatoes last month. I didn't realize that they all had different names, which just goes to show I really need to use my brain in a wider variety of circumstances. (There are like a billion varieties of apple, potato, tulip and rose, and each has a different name, but tomatoes? Nah. They're all either "the red kind," "the green kind," "the yellow kind" or grape, cherry, pear or plum shaped.) Not only do they all have different names (duh), but they have crazy hilarious names! Examples? Mr. Stripey! Abraham Lincoln! Morgage Lifter! Yes, these are actual tomato names. Seriously: go check out that guide.

On a related (and probably equally uninteresting) note... Last summer, in line at Fred Meyer, there were two women behind us, one of whom had five or six green zebra tomatoes. The woman behind her comment on how nice they looked and wasn't it nice how you could get so many tomato varieties, even at Fred Meyer these days. The woman with the green tomatoes said, "Oh, it's wonderful. I've wanted to make fried green tomatoes for years, but they never sold green tomatoes before." Here is my understanding: friend green tomatoes are made with the end-of-the-season green tomatoes that won't ripen before the first frost. They're kind of hard and sour, so they're sliced horizontally in rounds, breaded and fried for a late summer treat. I assume it's the hardness that makes it work: can you imagine trying to bread horizonal rounds of a ripe tomato? It seems like all the seeds would fall out and make a mess, and you'd just end up with fried tomato rings. But you know, I've been wrong before.

So I turned around and said, "I'm sorry to butt in, but it was my understanding that fried green tomatoes were made with unripe tomatoes."

The woman replied, "Oh no - my receipe says green tomatoes. Like heirloom."

The woman behind her said, "I always heard unripe too. That's why they're green."

"Well," said the woman with the green tomatoes, "you can do it with either. That's what my recipe says."

And we all left it at that.

Regional cuisine is always tricky when it's not your region. I'm sure that if you're southern, you just know that fried green tomatoes are either heirloom or unripe like northwesterners just know that... um... philberts and hazelnuts are the same thing? ...that hefeweizen is made of wheat? Okay, those are suck comparisons. (Our regional cuisine - which I would sum up as salmon served with spinach ravioli in a hazelnut beurre blanc and a salad of mixed bitter greens, toasted hazelnuts and apple slices dressed in a balsamic vinegrette - is pretty descriptive and relatively straight-forward; we like to tell you in the name of the dish which exact ingredients you will be eating.) But if you look at fried green tomato recipes, they simply don't say "these tomatoes are unripe." And maybe they aren't; maybe I've made the mistake of assuming "green" means "unripe" because I have the horticultural skills of a swarm of locusts.

Okay, now I've wandered far afield of my original point (such as it was) and I don't know how to wrap this up. Pete is watching Telemundo and it is showing commercials for super-sexy telenovelas and "" This seems like a good way to lose either a lot of money or a lot of gold. It has a little BBB Better Business Bureau logo in the bottom left corner at the end. Or what could be a BBB logo - it's hard to tell because it's so small. I have to say that would just confirm my belief that a BBB designation means nothing. (The movers that shanghai'd our stuff to northern Maryland and stole our vacuum - of all things - were BBB members.)

Sorry this is so rambling. I will leave you with a link to a joke that is terrible on every level. It's not funny, it's badly punctuated and contains a rather obvious factual error that is extremely annoying. Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Local Commercials: What are you guys thinking?

So is there a law that local, amateur commercials have to be terrible? (I know there's a law that Lifetime movies have to be terrible. I'm pretty sure it's in the Constitution.) It would have never occurred to me that local commercials could be better than terrible before living in Maryland. And then we were exposed to the wonderfully bizarre Senate Insurance ads. (I think there was one with heads in a bag like bowling balls, but maybe I'm thinking of something else because I couldn't find a link.)

Local carpet ads seem to be the worst. I mean, "Carpet Carl"? What is he thinking? That's so gross. And then there's one for like, The Rug Store, or something. With a guy in a wagon, talking to a taxidermied bull about getting the carpets to the store. And the bull's eyes bulge and he pulls the carpet salesman out of the wagon and drags a very obviously stuffed shirt and pants to the carpet store. Um, what? And that isn't the only local ad starring a bull either. There's the car dealership (Wilsonville Toyota?) that goes a very long way for a very dumb joke: there's no bull at that dealership. My question is: why use the bull contrivance in the first place? If it's so hard to come up with a reasonable scenario in which someone might utter the phrase, "There's no bull at Wilsonville Toyota," why not try something else?

That's what makes Senate's line ("You can tell those other insurance companies to kiss my bumper - just kiss it!") so brilliant: when would you not say "kiss my bumper?" A friend of my mom's said that they enter the New Yorker cartoon caption contest every week with the same line: "Fuck off." And holy crap if it doesn't always work and if it isn't always funny. "Kiss my bumper" works the same way.

And then there are the ads that are unintentionally funny. In this one, I think maybe they meant to be a little funny, but maybe also a little cool. And the cool part definitely did not work. But they're having fun, so it's fun to watch, even if it is a little cringe worthy. There's another local commercial for a furniture store that I can't find on-line that makes no sense at all. And they think they're being funny - they're aren't - and it is just painful to watch. Well, at least as baffling as it is painful. There's a woman and she says, "Normally I like to dress up for ads this time of year, but my husband said he wanted to do something more serious. Let's go see what he came up with." [cut to woman opening door to office. Inside office is man on phone in a very very bad banana suit. Man shrugs and looks, um, sheepish? Is that what he was going for?] "Well, I guess he changed his mind!" The woman says shrugging the most exaggerated shrug ever. How is that selling furniture?? How?

The Portland "Local Ads Must Be Awful" Ordinance seems to extend to local politics as well. While Earl Blumenhaur, Gordon Smith and Jeff Merkeley (to name a few) have all managed to put together ads that do not look like they were shot on a ten-year old camcorder with a budget of pocket change, some duct tape and a handful of Brach's neopolitains, the same can not be said of Diane McKeel (for county commissioner). Check out the second video in her embedded feed. (I couldn't find a YouTube of this specific ad.) What do you think: does she know it looks terrible and she just wants everyone to know how good she is at following city statutes? Or does she think it's looking pretty awesome? Pete loves how half the 'S' in 'JOBS' is cut off. It's kind of like an SNL bit, but without Scarlett Johansson in a Curly Sue wig (more's the pity).

[Momentary digression: actually, there is an anti-Gordon Smith ad that is incredibly effective on mute. Seriously: hit mute now and then watch this ad. I think the photographs are beautiful - masculine, intense, emotional, even a little gritty - and the words really cut to the heart of the issue. Okay, now watch it with the sound. I think the sound totally kills the impact. The music is maudlin and the voice-over is just a little bitter, a little snide. The first few times I saw it, I saw it on mute, and I thought it was so powerful. "Yes," I thought, "This is how political ads should be. Artful, thoughtful, understated." We watch TV with the commercials on mute so often I don't really notice anymore, unless they don't make any sense without sound. I was so disappointed when I heard it for the first time. If I were the DCC (I think that's who did this), I would have just read the words on the screen so that the illiterate can understand as well and I would have had them read by veterans who feel that Gordon Smith should not keep his seat in the Senate.
--Digression digression: I can't bring myself to hate Gordon Smith. Have I said this before? Maybe so - but it's true. I just don't feel any vitriol. Merkeley seems just as bad, he just happens to share one or two more of my views than Smith does. But Pete put it this way: "No, we need Gordon Smith out so that I can see revenge enacted upon Lieberman." Fair enough.--]

I probably should have embedded some of those videos. ::sigh:: But I'm soooo lazy.... Here, I'll embed the singing furniture ad for you as a parting gift.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oregon Coast

Pete and I were at the coast today and oh my god it was so beautiful there are no words to describe it so here are some pictures. [Error 503: Pithy phraseology about weeping, jealousy and not living in the pacific northwest not found. Please substitute actual conversational content or accept fail.] ::Fail accepted::

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Today is my little brother's 25th birthday. Hip hip, hooray! Post a birthday wish here (if you have one) or leave him a note on Facebook. Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Did I miss something?

Here are my questions/comments from the Republican convention speeches I've watched so far:
  1. When did Washington, D.C. become Liberal?
  2. When did "War Hero" become synonymous with "Ready to be the Most Powerful Person on Earth"? (As Pete says, "Therefore, all POWs should be President!")
  3. How can you have the slogan "Country First" when you have an "Alaska First" VP?
  4. Mitt Romney actually used giving Guantanamo detainees basic rights as an example of how awful the Democrats are. For serial!
  5. And he also railed against the elite East Coast Washington Insiders that run government. Does he know of which state he was governor?
  6. Huckabee said two things that he thinks are related but are clearly not even a little related. First, that he's so sick of hearing about how unqualified Palin is. (Incidentally, me too! She should step down and save us all the headache.) Secondly - and this is not an exact quote (I'm not a stenographer) but it's close - "Sarah Palin got more votes for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden did for President!" Pete's reaction was, "No she didn't! That's an outright lie!" I think Huckabee was probably being facetious, but I could be wrong.
  7. I mean, he does believe Lincoln founded the Republican Party.
  8. Evidently you don't need to explain how someone is qualified for the job, you just have to tell a super maudlin story about veterans and school children that has nothing to do with anything and that's good enough.
  9. But at least Huckabee's likable. At least it's clear that he really believes in all the crazy crap he says, like earnestly.
  10. And at least they keep to cutting Palin's kids. They're cute and photogenic and well-behaved. They may be the only well-behaved people there.
  11. Guiliani wants approbation for keeping simple, unimportant promises.
  12. As creepy as McCain's smile is, Guiliani's is equally douchebaggy. And yes, that is my personal opinion. I hope no one holds that against me. I'm very ired by this viewing experience.
  13. Guiliani seems to think that the part of this ticket we find hard to believe is that McCain is a patriot who loves his country. He's working very hard to convince us that this is true. At least he's picking an easily attained goal.
  14. When did it become okay to be pro-Reagan again?
  15. They're still arguing experience? THEY'RE STILL ARGUING EXPERIENCE!
  16. Guiliani is seriously a douche. Pete just asked, "How can anyone not hate these people?" Dude, I'm turning it off. Fuck this guy. These aren't arguments, this is just dicking around and pretending like the failing economy, the war in Iraq and everything else that's wrong with the country right now aren't serious problems that deserve serious consideration from qualified professionals.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hopefully a final Palin Post

There is buzz out there in the electronic world that Palin may step down. McCain's people are trying to rally, but it doesn't really give one much hope for her as a candidate. For the sake of her future political career, she really ought to. Really, though: she ought never to have accepted in the first place. She knows how unqualified she is.

But there are some weird things about her that I haven't mentioned. I would link to them, but it's late and everyone has the Googles, so I'll leave it for now. (If I remember, I'll come do it later, but no one hold their breath.) Okay, time for another bulleted List of Laziness. Weee!
  • She was a member of an Alaskan secessionist group. Or she spoke at their convention and said, "I totally agree with all your views." (I know - I should be providing links because without direct reference I suck at facts.)
  • Her husband works for an oil company (although this is from an Alaskan friend who has never heard of her).
  • That same Alaskan friend made me laugh out loud today, writing that if she's governor of Alaska and has an 80% approval rating, she must 1) be in bed with big oil; and 2) be a republican "i.e. she doesn't believe in evolution, photosynthesis, or gravity."
  • There were shenanigans when she got into the mayor's office in Wasilla - a town of dirt roads without sewers, it appears (hey, a link! I know, it's amazing). I don't have a link for this right now (Pete read it to me yesterday), but it seems that she fired everyone, eliminated the office of Town Historian (or similar) and was implementing loyalty tests... in a tiny town without paved roads. Wow. Just, wow. Can you say "power mad"? I can. Power mad. What would she be like as Vice President? I imagine the Bush-Justice Department scandal is probably a pretty good template.
  • This is just an observation: she had a crazy accent and now she doesn't. If you watch videos of her from her sports casting days on YouTube, she has this crazy almost-Canadian accent. It's really charming. It's gone now - I wonder how much work that took - but I wonder if you could give your campaign the same kind of folksy feel with that accent as with a Southern accent.
  • She isn't all bad: she enacted a big tax on oil companies, including on windfall profits. That's pretty impressive. Pete says, "What I like about Kevin Drum is he will give credit where credit is due without reservation." And of course, I want to be just like Kevin Drum so that Pete will still like me too. Plus, it leads me to believe that you will find this gem at Mother Jones.
  • Maybe she was only vetted via Google. (Okay, I'll link to things I've read in the last six hours.) Now if I were only vetted via Google, I would come out looking pretty good. I went to U of O recently, I'm middle aged and living in Cedar Rapids where I donate a lot to various charities, I worked on something related to stroke... Yes, truly, I am a woman of the world.
  • Oh yeah, and she's under investigation and has hired a private lawyer for her alleged misdeeds in the firings of the safety commissioner and her ex -brother-in-law.
  • Anything else I forgot is probably here.
I just think this is the craziest thing. I don't understand how they could be so careless. I know: McCain wants to court the far right. But there are plenty more appropriate people to put on a ticket who could accomplish just that, I'm sure of it. All I can do is hope that this is the last I'll feel compelled to write about this woman. Unless I try to think of some other LOLVPs. What scares me is that she won't step down or be taken off the ticket and people will still vote for McCain knowing that if/when he dies, she'll take over.

So here is what I tell myself to feel better. Chester A. Arthur was a purely political pick for VP on Garfield's part. He was not considered desirable or necessarily qualified and I don't think he and Garfield even really got along. He wasn't supposed to take the job, either. When offered, though, he said, "This is a higher honor than I have ever dreamt of attaining. I shall accept!" This is one of my favorite quotes ever because it's exactly what you should say in that situation. When Garfield was assassinated, Arthur became president. Wikipedia says:
Publisher Alexander K. McClure wrote, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired… more generally respected." Author Mark Twain, deeply cynical about politicians, conceded, "It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration."
Although they represented completely different views on the subject of civil service reform (I think), Arthur felt it was his duty to respect the late President's wishes and turned his back on his people, the Stalwarts. I'm sure I'm the only person to ever say this, but I hope there's a little Chester A. Arthur in all of us. And I hope that there's a big Chester A. Arthur in Palin and that she'd do the right thing if the opportunity presented itself. (Also, everyone should read Sarah Vowel's Assassination Vacation, which is where I first learned about all this. That book is so good - I have to find it and read it again.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Palin's Daughter

Caveat Lector: Pete points out that this is in questionable taste because it's rumor mongering and about a candidate's child, etc. So read no further if you agree that rumors should not be discussed without ample evidence or that candidate's children are always off limits no matter what.

One of the rumors that's been flying about is that Palin's fifth child (Trig) is not actually her son, but her grandson. She didn't announce she was pregnant until she was seven months and did not look demonstrably pregnant. Her 16-year old daughter was suddenly out of school with mono (for five months) so there are not a ton of pictures of her from that time. Then, when she supposedly went into labor a month early, after her water broke she flew 4,000 miles and skipped the hospital in Anchorage to return to her home town to give birth. Aside from the fact of such a choice being just plain dangerous (in fact, in the past, OBs were known to suggest an overdue woman take a short flight as the pressure change could induce labor), everyone knows that the more times you give birth, the quicker it's likely to happen. Anyway, the whole story, including pictures of the daughter from earlier in the year where she does look demonstrably pregnant, is here. I highly recommend reading it as it is just flabbergasting how totally improbable this story is.

Most liars would agree that the most convincing lies omit the details and stick to the truth as much as possible. (In fact, the best way to get caught lying is to look down as you speak or make too much eye contact and to offer too many details.) The Karl Rove school seems to believe that you can say any damn thing you want, no matter how crazy or impossible, and so long as you gnash your teeth and growl while saying it, people will buy it. And if they don't, never try to explain how your crazy story is possible, just accuse them of something, anything, and never ever back down. This story Palin has told is such a weird mix of too much detail AND too many crazy, impossible things that it shouldn't work on any level. Every time she offers a new detail, it fails to jibe with the rest. And she just brazens it out.

Now she's saying that her daughter is currently five months pregnant and therefore couldn't be Trig's mother. Um, what? My guess is that baby will be born two months "premature."

I don't think a candidate can be measured by the choices their children make. They can, however, be measured by the way they handle the fall-out of those choices. We've (my family and I) been talking about this story a lot for several days now and I wasn't going to write anything about it because I agree that candidates' children should not be brought into the process, scrutinized, etc. But in this case Palin has brought her daughter into it herself in exposing her current pregnancy in response to rumors. If she did pretend to be pregnant to cover up what she considers to be a shameful act on the part of her daughter, she made a lot of bad choices in bringing her pretend baby into the world, and that should matter to voters because it speaks to her decision-making skills. If she really was improbably pregnant, it should speak to them even more strongly. If these rumors are untrue, I apologize for having speculated. But the rumor seems more plausible than the purported truth and that is impossible to ignore.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin and why you sometimes see me, fingers in ears, eyes shut tight, shouting, "Nah nah nah, I can't hear you!!"

Who is this Sarah Palin? And why do I keep wanting to call her Nancy or Cathy? Yeah, she totally looks like a Cathy to me. But that is neither here nor there. My plan today is to round up some information on this person of whom I've never before this week heard even the slightest mention. And to explain to those who know me why sometimes I'm like, "Let's learn everything about this issue; come on, it'll be fun," and others I'm like, "Lalalalala! I don't wanna know! Shut up shut up shut up! Lalalalala!". Please add links to other interesting information about Palin and why she was chosen in the comments, if you find it!

Where to start? I have quite a few go-to sites (as it turns out). If I want the liberal, not-on-tv view, I go to Washington Monthly or Kevin Drum (now on Mother Jones). If I want the "we're so in the middle, we make up opposing viewpoints to stories that don't really have them" view, I go to CNN. For someone shouting an echo of how I feel about something at an unreasonable volume, Countdown with Keith Olbermann. (I'm really looking forward to Rachel Maddow's new show - I think it might be "someone echoing how I feel about something at a reasonable volume".) For the Oregon connection, The Oregonian. For the full backstory that will make me feel like it's impossible to hate anyone and to totally understand who they are as a person, the New Yorker. Usually I would consider The New York Times and Washington Post good sources of factual information. And of course, for the Crazy, I have to turn to Fox News. Oh, or a Bill Kristol op-ed in The New York Times.

But what that leaves out is a real sense of what's going on in a real conservative's head. Generally speaking, I avoid trying to do that anyway. I hate to admit it, but I'm only a sort of political person. In the same way that I overempathize with characters on tv, how George's antics on Seinfeld make me feel personally ashamed and nauseated, reading someone's passionate opinions that are in direct contradiction with my own and knowing that I can do nothing to convince them they're wrong also makes me feel sick. I feel depressed, despondent, angry and yes, a little nauseated. We are each largely powerless to enact real change in the world on our own. It's why we form communities of like-minded people. Barack Obama isn't where he is today because he, as one man, had some great ideas. He's there because he had some great ideas that appealed to communities of people who acted cooperatively and collectively to push him to the forefront as the spokesman for their beliefs. I know this, but I get bogged down in the details, the individuals. I know I can't persuade an anti-abortionist that their point of view doesn't make for good policy and is, in fact, in contradiction with both science and the ethical standards of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that good people who only want a better world can be so closed-minded and, well, so wrong. And then I realize that if one person is making that point of view known on a national level, they represent a community and then I feel totally, completely powerless. And I can't sleep at night. So a lot of the time, I tune out politics entirely, because it's just too draining to pay attention.

That said, I will try to keep my head out of the sand through this, even though the stuff Pete was reading aloud last night was already turning my stomach.

I think I'll start with CNN. They've been driving me nuts lately with their "it's not real journalism if you don't provide two opposing viewpoints, so make something up!" style of reporting. As predicted, they offer two opposing commentaries. Although as Pete pointed out, the craziest right wing thing they could find (apparently) was "She's okay, guys," while the left wing piece is literally titled, "Is McCain out of his mind?" Their article on her biography begins with what I think is a perfect summary of the differences between the McCain and Obama campaigns thus far. McCain's people say what they would like to be true and Obama's people state the facts in simple sentences.
The McCain campaign calls her a "tough executive who has demonstrated" readiness to be president. The Republican National Committee calls her a "conservative star with the talent, energy and family support necessary to carry out common sense policies."

But the Obama campaign calls her a candidate with "the thinnest foreign policy experience in history" who is "currently under investigation in her own state." And one of the Senate's top Democrats, Charles Schumer, said that although she is "a fine person, her lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling."
So here are facts I have gleaned from CNN. She's...
  • 44
  • not just the governor of Alaska, she's the first female governor of Alaska
  • the mother of 5 children, including one heading to Iraq
  • been "a beauty queen, high school basketball star and TV sportscaster."
  • the ex-mayor of Wasilla, AK
  • been involved in the politics of oil
  • under investigation for having the safety commissioner fired because he wouldn't fire her ex-brother-in-law
  • anti-abortion
  • pro-gun, a hunter and a lifetime member of the NRA
  • nicknamed "Barracuda" from her basketball days (not because she's a huge Heart fan, sadly)
  • "outside the beltway"
Here are the buzzwords I've gleaned from CNN
  • Game-changer
  • Maverick
  • Hail-Mary pass
I like this Rollins quote, too. It's like the second sentence and the last two are completely unrelated. Actually, the last two sentences are themselves completely unrelated, except in Rollins head. Pete liked that his ace in the hole is, "she plays the flute." Well, touche!
She is blunt, outspoken and charming. And don't assume she can't stand toe-to-toe with Joe Biden. She is a great debater. And she was runner-up for the Miss Alaska title, won Miss Congeniality in that contest and plays the flute.
Rollins believes she'll appeal to women because, you know, she's got ovaries or something. I agree with Tina and Dale's comments to my post yesterday: the idea that she'll draw away Hillary supporters from the Democratic fold is laughable. And it shows how intensely sexist we still are as a culture. But I think Sam Bee summed it up best on the Daily Show last night.

Okay, I'm not even going to look at the iReports because they'll just make me angry. Where to next? Let's go to the Washington Monthly. At least there someone will be willing to say what we're all thinking: This is a totally irresponsible choice. Holy cats, there's a lot of it. Maybe a summary would be better.
  • Here is what the Right is thinking. They're, um, not impressed. She's unqualified, she's not ready to lead anyone should McCain die and they don't want to vote for her.
  • And here are what Alaskans think. They think she's unqualified, she's not even a good governor of Alaska, she doesn't really understand the job and she oversimplifies complex issues.
  • And here is a summary of how totally nuts this choice is.
  • Not only did she very likely fire someone for not firing her ex-brother-in-law, she appears to be caught on tape lying about it. She also "then replaced him with a guy facing a credible sexual harassment accusation, and who was out of the job two weeks later." There's also a link to a WaPo story about "just how embarrassing this scandal is for" her. I can't decide what my favorite part is, though. The part where we're informed that the word "impeach" has been thrown around up north or the part where the author (Steve Benen) suggests that she might not be on the ticket come November. I agree with Pete, though, on that count: it would be just as big a train wreck.
  • Washington Monthly also agrees with Tina and Dale: women just aren't this shallow/stupid. WM keeps talking about how cynical a choice this is, and the more I read, the more I agree with that assessment. It's not just cynical about how women choose a leader, it's cynical about Americans in general. McCain might as well start handing out buttons that say, "Fuck you, Morons. McCain '08."
  • A classic quote from McCain's people. "Hey guys, don't worry: doctors assure us McCain's got at least four more years in him." Also, they admit that she isn't ready to lead.
  • This choice may be explained by the fact that McCain had only ever spoken to her twice before offering her the VP spot.
  • Clearly, Karl Rove was not consulted about the VP pick. This is a great quote from earlier this month where he basically describes all the reasons Palin is a poor choice in talking about why Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia, would be a bad choice for Obama. Hilarious!
  • If you only read one of these, read this one. It's a short, amusing list of items pertaining to Palin and McCain. McCain fun fact: he's 23 years older than Alaska.
  • Evidently, living in a state that borders another country is the same as foreign policy experience. Oh Fox News, it wouldn't be as funny if you weren't so damn proud of yourself.
  • She claims she was against the Bridge to Nowhere, but that might not be the whole story. In fact, she supported the project and kept the money.
Okay, maybe let's move on. Actually, this has gotten crazy long already, so I'm going to post it and then start a new entry with further links as I find them. So far the evidence leads me to believe that my assessment from yesterday remains the only plausible explanation.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ferret Redux

Someone has posted a comment on my post from last year about the Ferret Fancier program on OPB. I had totally forgotten about that thing. I went to YouTube to relive the glory and remembered why it made me so mean when everyone else thought it was purely hilarious: the dreaded tardwillies. I think you will agree, it's the most tardwilly inducing thing ever. Also, totally hilarious.


Okay, so here is my theory about McCain's bizarre choice: when he and Obama were the clear candidates, they sat down in a secret meeting and decided that Obama should clearly be the next president. "I will do everything in my power to make myself completely unpalatable," McCain says, his eyes tearful with pride, protecting his nation once again.
"I wish it didn't have to come to this, Old Friend," Obama says. "I wish this nation wasn't filled with idiots who will vote for any damn thing Fox News tells them to." McCain shakes his head.
"You know, I love this country more than anything. I would - and will - give my soul for it." Obama tries to interject, to console the brave warrior, but McCain raises his hand. "No, it's true. I just don't understand how people vote. I mean, if you truly love this country, wouldn't you want it run by experts?"
Obama smiles wryly. "Damn that Andrew Jackson... You know, it's been all downhill since he won on his "Isn't illiteracy cute? Ha ha!" ticket. Old Hickory indeed. But how will you do it, John? I mean, you've managed to look pretty forgetful and old these last few weeks, but you're no Bush. And even if you were, Americans keep electing that guy!"
"Yeah, what is up with that?" Both McCain and Obama are silent for a moment, scratching their heads in earnest thought. Then McCain continues: "It's quite simple, really. I'll be completely inconsistent in the positions I hold. I'll make bizarre claims and generally act like an old goat. When given a host of viable VP candidates, I'll choose some no-name, right wing wacko out of left field."
"What, like Miss Congeniality, Sarah Palin?" Obama jokes.
"Hey - that's not a bad idea. She's hot - and you know how I like the ladies - she's nuts, and she's totally inexperienced. She'll scare away the moderates, ire the sexists and get everyone else so hot under the collar they can't make it out the door to vote!"
"I don't know, it could be risky."
"But it's worth it, Friend! America is worth it!"
"You're doing a great thing, John. A great thing." They embrace and weep gentle tears of patriotic sacrifice.

Also, everyone should participate in Pete's LOLVP contest. I think it should be either VP, so look for those awesome "Wherz mah bukit??" Joe Biden pictures. Oh Internets, is there anything you can't turn into a meaningless meme?

EDIT: I fixed the spelling and punctuation errors. (Helps to have an editor for a husband!) I don't know why spell check wasn't underlining things before. And now it's underlining "wasn't." Truly, technology is a marvel. (I bet I just misspelled "marvel.")

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Turns of phrase that don't mean what they used to

I've been reading a lot of mysteries lately, mostly Agatha Christie, but I'm moving onto Sherlock Holmes. (Yes, I know he's not an author.) I was semi-ranting at Pete today about mystery novels and he suggested I should blog about them. And he's such a good husband, he even managed to sound like he thought other people would be interested in my thoughts and ideas rather than like he just wanted me to stop shouting about how totally unnecessary Watson is except to let the reader know that actually, Doyle doesn't agree with Holmes' misogyny/misanthropy at all. Sadly (or not), I am too tired to give full breath to my thoughts on the subject, so I thought I would post a short, related note about language in these books. Maybe I did this already? If so, sorry for the repeat. I'm too lazy to go look at my archive.

There are certain phrases that we just don't use any more. Or at least, not in the way they were originally conceived. Some are just strange, things that seem so very particular as to be too useless to remain current. Like, "She had Irish blue eyes put in with the smutty finger." Whaa?? Evidently this means that they had a smokey ring around the iris. If it were "put in with the smutty thumb" it would mean thick, dark eyelashes. Thanks, Agatha, for a phrase I will never have any reason to use because aside from being completely foreign to the modern person, it's just awkward to say. "With the smutty finger"? Why a definite article? Does it imply that God only uses one finger to play with ashes and occasionally also to put in eyeballs? Another favorite is "mare's nest," as in, "Well this is a right old mare's nest you've gotten us into." It means "complex situation," almost "imbroglio," but without the connotation of scandal.

The two phrases/words that have gotten me laughing again and again though are both redefinitions. I will give examples (though not quotes; again: lazy).
Suddenly, the Colonel left the room. Miss Marple ejaculated. "What is it?" cried her friend, startled by the uncharacteristic outburst.

"Watson, I'm sorry to knock you up so early in the morning, but it's really quite urgent."
"What? Sherlock, why are you knocking me up so early?"
"It's not me really, but a lady downstairs. And whenever a young lady knocks you up so early in the morning, you know it must be vitally important and I knew you wouldn't want to miss it."
Yes, that's right: boring old Miss Marple and her knitting are ejaculating all the time. All the time! And so are Holmes and Watson. If things get the least bit tense, Watson can't help himself. And when Holmes ejaculates, well, Watson is always startled, no matter how many times it happens.

The "knocked up" thing was quite unexpected. I mean, I'm familiar with the multiple meanings of "ejaculate," but I'd never seen "knocked up" used to mean "sought out" or "rung up" before. It kind of sheds new light on the provenance of the meaning "to be pregnant," don't you think? I mean, can you imagine fifty years from now if "to ring up" were to mean "to impregnate"? All kinds of British movies will cease to stand the test of time! Everyone will be ringing everyone up all the time and we will seem like the most lascivious of cultures!

Anyway, I thought you'd enjoy those two little artifacts.

My new favorite thing

Okay, check out this site, it is hilarious:

I've been reading through the archives and it is just amazing what people will put up with. For big, expensive cakes, you sign a contract and the bakery has to deliver what you requested. It's shocking what people have ended up with. I mean, they should just be ashamed! But the author is wonderful! She's funny, a good writer, has an eye for both style and grammar mistakes and seems to be pretty even handed in doling out the blame. I've found myself laughing out loud more than once, but this entry had me laughing the entire time it took Pete to take out the trash and come back inside.

Also, if you are in Portland and haven't checked out the Portland Tribune's RSS feed, I highly recommend it. It's no more or less overwhelming than something like Political Animal or the Onion AV Club and I think it's the only place covering every single stabbing at the NE 82nd street MAX station and small arguments at local neighborhood meetings as well as more major city news, like arguments over the I-5 bridge and research at OHSU. Of course, I'm more interested in the police blotter-like stories. Portland is basically a lot of villages all mooshed together, sharing a transit system; the Trib's voice is kind of representative of that.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another Royal Challenge

Once upon a time a made a mix-CD of break-up songs that followed the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). But I had no one I could give it to and now I don't know what happened to it. I suspect the play list was either pre-iTunes or on an old machine and didn't transfer for whatever reason. But it was pretty neat and I was super pleased with myself though haven't thought of it in years. But yesterday I was listening to "Breaking Up" off of "Under the Blacklight" (Rilo Kiley) and I thought to myself, "This would be the song to end that playlist. It's not just acceptance, it's excited to be free." Then I started wishing I could remember the rest of what was in the playlist, although I'll never know what the original contained because my music tastes change so much over time it's hard to remember that I used to like x and dislike y. I put it to you, friends and strangers who have stumbled upon this blog googling "Rilo Kiley" or "five stages of grief:" what would you put on a break-up CD so organized? In fact, I'm going to add two more "stage," one for before the standard five and one for after: background story and freedom. Please comment! Put the name of the song, the artist, what stage of grief and why it should go on the playlist there. I'll even start you out with some examples!

Breaking up, Rilo Kiley - Freedom
It's about the end of a relationship, but it's got a kind of pop dance hall beat in the chorus that makes you want to raise your arms over your head and jump around as you croon along with "Ooh! It! Feels GOOD to be free!"

Song for the dumped, Ben Folds Five - Anger
The chorus ("give me my money back, give me my money back you bitch") pretty much says it all.

Breaking up is hard to do, Neil Sedaka - Depression
Dude, I totally thought this song was by a girl. It is the classic breaking up song; it seems like a breaking up playlist would be incomplete without it.

Does he love you?, Rilo Kiley - Background story
A letter from one friend to another, telling a story about a potentially troubled marriage and ending with at least two broken hearts. It kind of sets the tone. If the tone is, "am I really sympathizing with a woman cheating with her best friend's husband?"

EDIT (7/19/08): Okay, now that I have more than a moment to think about this, I will add some more items to the list myself. I am inspired by Joseph and Beau's additions! I would also like to add the category "Categories Are Stupid" for those songs that just don't fit anywhere but should totally be on a break up mix tape. I appreciate transitional songs, too (Beau mentioned a couple, I think) because they would give said CD a smoother feel. Pete thinks I have too many Jenny Lewis songs already. But he he can go shove it up his nose; if he could remember lyrics, his list would be all Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead.

Runaway, Del Shannon - Denial
It wasn't until Beau suggested Take a Letter Maria that I started to think about all the oldies rattling around in my brain from my middle school years as a KISN addict. Runaway sprang immediately to mind. And actually, as I started to type out the lyrics looking for the phrase that had struck me as "break up song," I was surprised to discover that this is actually kind of a creepy song. I mean, dude's girl fuckin' ran away from him to end the relationship, but he's still hoping to figure out where she's staying and "wondering" what went wrong, like he doesn't know, like maybe they'll get back together. Maybe if you beat her less, Del Shannon, she would have at least left you a note explaining why she left. Here are the lyrics to the first verse and chorus as I remember them from Middle School assemblies.

"As I walk along / I wonder / what went wrong with our love / a love that was so strong. / And as I still walk on / I think of / the things we'd done together / while our hearts were young. / I'm a walking in the rain! / Tears are falling and I feel the pain! / Wishing you were here by me / to end this misery / and I wonder / I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder / Why / Why why why why why she ran away / and where she will stay-E-A / my little runaway / run run run run runaway."

(Digression: they passed around kazoos in buckets and so about half the 8th graders would end up filling in the weird musical interludes with appropriate buzzing while everyone else went "doo doot doo doo doo" in a high pitched whine. We also sang "Love Potion Number Nine," "You Don't Knock" and "I Know You Rider" in assemblies. It was a weird place, but we didn't mind assemblies as much as we might have.)

I know you rider, various (Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead) - Background story?
All I remembered of this song was the chorus (which essentially boils down to "I know you rider / gonna miss me when I'm gone / gonna miss your baby / rollin' in your arms"). As I don't remember any of the verses, it's hard to know which version I learned in Middle School. The Grateful Dead version seems familiar and appears to be just about leaving, although evidently the earlier versions had a final verse that implied the singer wasn't coming back.

Superhero, Ani DiFranco - acceptance (with a touch of anger)
This was absolutely my favorite song, maybe senior year in high school/freshman year of college. It's so angry and strong and bitter. I think it's the bitterness that puts it in the acceptance bucket rather than the anger bucket. The beginning lyrics capture perfectly that place where hurt opens you up and exposes you to the cultural cliches to which you'd typically be immune. But by the final verse, she's taking back in control and saving herself.

Don't Pass Me By, The Beatles - bargaining?
Bargaining has got to be the hardest category. I'm guessing that oldies are probably the place to look for this "look, I'm make you a deal if you just don't go" category. This is the best I've come up with. I've never been sure if I understand this song correctly, but my interpretation was always that the singer had been left by his gf, she's lied to him about a car crash as an excuse for being late to meet him, but she's never going to show. And he's left pleading at the end, "You'd never know it hurt me so / I'd hate to see you go / Don't pass me by."

I don't want to spoil the party, The Beatles - hard core denial
If there were a stage of grief called "Wallowing" this would be its anthem. He's drunk, he's sad and he wants everyone to know. Oh, she's left me! Oh, I'm drinking to spite her! Oh... hey, maybe I'll just go see if I can find her...

For no one, The Beatles - depression
Oh my god, I probably listened to this song a thousand times between 8th and 10th grade. It's so deliciously sad, another passive agressively wallower trying to break his ex-lovers cold, cold heart. Joseph, I totally agree about Wilco's "I am trying to break your heart;" I think this song may have been the inspiration because that is so clearly its deal.

You could actually probably do a break up CD just with Beatles songs. I'm a loser, Another Girl, Yesterday, You won't see me... And the scary scary background story of "Run for your life," where John Lennon threatens to 'cap a bitch,' if you will, should she ever cheat on him. I will move on.

Paper Tiger, Beck - depression, acceptance
When I started to play this album to pick a song, Pete said from the other room, "Ohhh. That album wins." Indeed. This is my favorite song on this album of favorite songs and I'm not sure how I ever registered it as a break up song as it's only the last line that let's you know it's about a girl. Guess I'm Doing Fine would be my other solid vote from this album, but Pete's right: you could just give someone this album and say, "For when you're depressed and looking to move on," and it would be just about perfect. Unless they're suicidal. "I just hold on to nothing / see how long nothing lasts" and "it's only lies that I'm living / it's only tears that I'm crying / it's only you that I'm losing / guess I'm doing fine" might not be the best lyrics for the suicidal mind.

Selfless, Cold and Composed, Ben Folds Five - anger
Although ostensibly about accepting a break up, the singer is really this close to trying to bargain his way back in. He's pissed, she's already moved on (maybe) and she's making it really hard for him to try and hurt her the way he wants to.

Train in Vain, The Clash - passive aggression
Okay, that just needs to be a category. This is another song about a guy who was wronged, he wants her back, but he "supposes" there's nothing he can do. It sounds like acceptance, but he's still hanging on. It's not really anger either, in this case though. Not with lyrics like, "without your love, I won't make it through." The real question is: do these songs have a place on a break up album? If the point is to lead someone through the five stages of grief, starting out angry and hurt but leaving the 1-2 hours of music happy and ready to start over, is there a place for Mr. Passive Agressive Woe Is Me?

Little Hands, Duncan Sheik - bargaining
Okay, I know I'm going to get a raft of shit for owning, knowing and (god forbid) liking this album, but there it is. This is a weird song; its protagonist is in love with a woman who's told him there's no relationship there ("I need another lover like a hole in the chest") but keeps stringing him along. In the end, she cuts him loose and attempts to make him feel small, but he's too focused on the fact that he survived and thinks that maybe there's a chance for some future lovin': "I'll let it go but I'll never say never."

Okay, I feel like I'm starting to repeat myself, so I'll leave it here for now. If I add anymore, I'll do it in the comments section. I look forward to seeing more ideas from you all!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

CNN: Still Stupid

Here are the t-shirt options today:
  • Party begins for Spanish soccer fans
  • Bison again roam in Minnesota
  • Pets from floods need homes
  • Teacher fired for using book
But here is the one that would actually make an okay t-shirt:
  • Oldest profession feeling fuel-price pinch, too
Not that anyone wants a CNN headline t-shirt. I mean, that's still their greatest barrier. But it would help if the almost funny headlines were the one's making it rather than the definitely not t-shirt worthy ones. I mean, "Pets from floods need homes" is pretty much just an ad for the humane society. Which would be great if proceeds from the sale of those t-shirts went to help said pets find homes. But they don't. So very very lame.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why is CNN so stupid?

Have you noticed that CNN has this new thing where they put a t-shirt icon next to some of their headlines? If you click on it, you can order a shirt with the specific headline on it. My question is: why is choosing which headlines should be on t-shirts? They are universally retarded. I get the feeling that some baby boomer/greatest generation producer noticed that all The Young People were wearing t-shirts with nonsensical slogans on them, sometimes about different states being for lovers, sometimes about something called the "Flying Spaghetti Monster." And then s/he learned that some of them - the one's that read "Area Man" or "Area Woman" - were from a humorous fake news publication called the Turnip or the The Scallion or some such. S/he rushed into the marketing department and declared, "The Young People are idiots! They'll buy anything anything! They call it "irony;" I call it "profit." If they like wearing fake headlines on their chests, I'm sure they'll love wearing real headlines!"

I don't know who chooses which headlines could become shirts, but they are universally stupid. Why would you want that on a shirt? The thing with ironic t-shirt slogans is that they are a decontextualization. If you went to Virginia and bought a shirt that said "Virginia is for lovers," and were like, "Look at the awesome shirt I got; Virginia is totally rad," you would be a dork. Or someone's grandmother. But if you buy that shirt at a store, it is not actually an advertisement for Virginia, it's just an intentionally dorky t-shirt. And if you are intentionally dorky, then you must be cool because no one would ever intentionally be a dork. Or it is a shirt that has a non-slogan on it, like "Bowling Sucks" or "I'm A Quitter," something that no one would ever seriously use a t-shirt to advertise. And that juxtaposition is, I believe, funny. I think that's how ironic t-shirt logic works, anyway.

The choices from CNN are just headlines. They're informative. They're not even particularly funny. Here, I will give you the list of headlines with a t-shirt icon available right now:
  • McCain, Obama in nuclear battle
  • Motorists push car to get free gas
  • Lost dolphins feed in New Jersey river
  • Hawaii reels from high food prices
These are decontextualize; they provide their own context in that they are informational headlines. They aren't a juxtaposition, like something that would never be a headline to begin with (a la the Onion) because they are actual headlines. And they're not even dorky things someone's grandmother would buy. Grandma might think "Virginia is for lovers" is a cute slogan; she probably doesn't think "Motorists push car to get free gas" is all that adorable. It's so stupid! And it doesn't work even a little. I suggest checking these out whenever you use; maybe you can explain to me who would buy such a shirt.