Help Wanted (But Not Yours)

You may have heard that media spectacle Kim Kardashian has expressed interest in running for mayor of Glendale, California. (Note to Kim:  Glendale doesn’t elect a mayor. City Council Members are elected and the mayoral position rotates among the council. But don’t let rules and facts stop you, girl.)

What did Glendale ever do to deserve this? One of my best friends lives in Glendale and it’s a nice enough place. But, Kim’s political aspirations got me thinking about famous people and the professions they should never attempt. Here are a few from my list:

Mitt Romney:                                        Humane Society spokesman

Alec Baldwin:                                        Anger management specialist

John Edwards:                                     Marriage counselor

Newt Gingrich:                                     Hospice volunteer

Joe Lieberman:                                    Motivational speaker

Marcus and Michele Bachmann:       Dancing with the Stars contestants

Kirk Cameron:                                      Inter-faith liaison to gay community

Bill Maher:                                            Director of Christmas and Easter pageants

Rush Limbaugh:                                  Sexual harassment seminar speaker

Mel Gibson:                                          Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

I’m sure you have plenty of your own suggestions for those poor, bored politicians and celebrities. There is one guy who is in bit of trouble for all the money he spent on a Las Vegas conference, among other things. Jeffrey Neely is an official with the Government Services Administration (the “GSA”) and the apparent organizer of the $823,000 Las Vegas conference.

‘Ol Jeff pleaded the 5th before a House committee and it doesn’t take a genius to know that he’s going to be out of a job soon. But with his skills, I see a rosy future as an event planner. Kim Kardashian’s inauguration party won’t happen on its own, after all.

Sex After Kids

Is there sex after kids? I’m not the most qualified person to answer that question because (a) I don’t have kids, and (b) Sex? I vaguely remember what that is. Luckily for you, you don’t have to rely on your humble blogger for all of your post-baby sex information. I could pretend to be hip and say, “There’s an app for that” but who am I kidding? I’m terminally un-hip. I’ll just tell you that there’s a movie for that.

The movie is called, aptly enough, Sex After Kids, and it springs from the mind of Canadian writer/director, Jeremy LaLonde. Jeremy has assembled a cast that will be well-known to Canadian viewers. Included among the cast are three actors, Zoie Palmer, Kris Holden-Ried and Paul Amos, who appear in the hit Canadian television series, Lost Girl, which is also airing in the United States on Syfy and around the world.

A fund raising campaign is underway via Indiegogo to help make this film a reality. The campaign runs until Friday, April 13th. Here’s one of the trailers to give you an idea about what you’ll see:

If you value independent film, please think about contributing whatever you can. If you can’t make a financial contribution, share the links with friends and family and spread the word through any social media sites you use.

You don’t need to have kids (or even like them very much, frankly) in order to support this film. I support this film because I like smart, intelligent comedies and those can be hard to find. Kind of like my sex life. But that’s another story and not one that will be made into any kind of movie.

Finding Paradise in a Cruel World

 

 

 

 

We’ve all heard the saying that “Music calms the savage beast”. I haven’t been in the company of any beasts bordering on savagery lately, so I’ll just have to take it on faith. What I do know, however, is how music can inspire and soothe a sad and solitary soul. That has been the state of my own soul more times than not lately.

When I’m in one of these dark places, the last thing I want to do is go out and be around people. But that’s exactly what I need to do. Luckily for me and my morose mood, I decided to venture over to Berkeley a couple of nights ago to hear some music. Two musicians who I knew via Twitter were performing. Gretchen Peters is an award-winning singer-songwriter and a fellow “grammar geek”. I mentioned Gretchen back in this post. She has a new album out called Hello Cruel World. Accompanying her on the tour is Barry Walsh, an amazing pianist and songwriter and also Gretchen’s husband. Barry, too, has a new album out called, “Paradiso”.

Barry’s piano playing evokes such powerful emotions in me. Whether the songs are his compositions or his take on something by French composer Erik Satie, for example, Barry’s playing brings me to tears. The tears may be joyful or filled with sadness, but I’m definitely moved.

What sets Gretchen’s music apart from much of what we hear today is authenticity. She not only tells you a story but she uses her words beautifully to paint a scene, set a mood or describe a character. There are no clichés or gimmicks to be found. Take for example these lyrics:

 

There’s a man out here puts his head in the mouth of a crocodile.
Puts the whole thing in, takes it out and gives the crowd a great big smile.

“Woman on the Wheel”

The moon had a fight with the parking lot light
And slunk off to hide in the clouds.

“Camille”

I’m a ticking clock, a losing bet.
I’m a girl without a safety net.
I’m a cause for some concern.

“Hello Cruel World”

Hello Cruel World walks on the darker side when it comes to the mood it exudes. You may think that a dark collection of songs would be the last type of music to lift me out of my heavy fog. When I listen to Gretchen’s stories about regret or resolve, passion or pain, it provides exactly what’s been lacking in my life: connection. Certain lyrics resonate and make me feel less alone in my solitude or sorrow. When you add the benefit of sharing the experience with others, be they friends or strangers, the effect is like an elixir.

I know that one night out, or one CD isn’t a cure-all for life’s problems. But what it is a cure for is that sense of isolation that arises from the feeling that nobody else knows what you’re going through. A gifted artist can reach inside himself or herself and pull something out that reverberates with something within you. Gretchen and Barry do this for me and I want to thank them for that.

I urge you to check out both of their sites and if they’re coming to a town near you on their tour, make a point to see them in concert. At the very least, take a listen to some of their music. You will not be sorry.

Typo No!

I assume that most of the people reading this blog came to find it and me via Twitter. I adore Twitter. Not only have I made some new friends thanks to those 140 characters, but I’ve also become aware of music and books that had previously been unknown to me. The theme of today’s post is one such example.

Thanks to a singer-songwriter I follow on Twitter named Gretchen Peters and our tweets back and forth about spelling and grammar, I became aware of a man named Jeff Deck. Gretchen tweeted a link to an interview Jeff gave about his book, The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World One Correction at a Time, and I was immediately intrigued. You see, I’m one of those people who can spot spelling errors everywhere. I find them in books, on websites, and scrolling to the side, under and above the television anchorperson’s talking head. I don’t look for these errors, they just appear in front of me, mockingly.

In fact, I once received a form rejection letter for a proofreading job and it was addressed to “Dear Job Seaker”. Despite my disappointment in not getting the job, the irony was not lost on me. You can imagine the pithy and witty response I sent back, can’t you?

Jeff and his friend Benjamin D. Herson, who co-wrote the book, traveled across the country hunting down typos in small town diners, national parks, etc. People like Gretchen and me understand this quest. As Jeff tried to explain to his girlfriend Jane, the reason why typos were a problem was because they represent, “The creeping menace of carelessness”.

Even if you don’t give a damn about the Oxford comma and it doesn’t faze you when someone uses “loose” instead of “lose” in a sentence, you have to admit that as a culture, we have become more careless about the rules of grammar and spelling. Granted, no one is perfect. In fact, I’m nervous that this post will contain some sort of grammatical error. The difference is, I care if I make a mistake.

In the book, Jeff describes two schools of thought when it comes to grammar and spelling correction. In this corner, we have the Descriptivists, aka, the Grammar Hippies. This approach favors a more subjective view of language and how people spell now, rather than how something is supposed to be spelled. To the Grammar Hippie, language is in a constant state of change and movement, kind of like those rhythmically-challenged, tie-dye wearing folks dancing at a Grateful Dead concert.

In the other corner, there are the Prescriptivists, or the Grammar Hawks. The Hawks believe that there is one way to spell, punctuate, etc., and that doesn’t change. There is a longstanding tradition and it works. There’s no need to mess with it. None of this hippie-dippy nonsense for the Hawks. No sirree!

It didn’t take me long to realize that I totally identify as a Grammar Hawk. To me, it’s a no-brainer. You learn how to spell a word and that doesn’t change. You place a comma here, and it stays there. How you feel about the placement of said comma or how you want a word to be spelled is irrelevant. I remember rolling my eyes when an ex of mine tried to explain why whole language learning was better than strict phonics. (She was a schoolteacher.)

She said that proper spelling wasn’t as important as understanding the meaning and context of the words. This was heresy to me. Sure, when the word “cat” is written, an image of a feline would help with context. But this doesn’t mean that it’s okay for a child to continually misspell “cat” despite knowing what one is.

To me, the emphasis on feeling and self-esteem I perceive from the Descriptivists point of view is a factor in why we’re seeing more typos and grammatical mistakes. It also reminds me of a previous post about children and sports. When the purpose of an endeavor, be it a game or writing an essay, becomes more about self-esteem than about skill development, we, as a culture, suffer.

Wherever you find yourself on the spelling spectrum, Jeff and Benjamin will take you on an entertaining and informative ride in their book. There were times when I became really depressed while reading it. All I could see was the downfall of our culture as each typo was found. I was further saddened that when the mistakes were pointed out to people, many reacted either defensively or apathetically.

Ultimately, though, Jeff and Benjamin didn’t undertake this journey to be scolds or to make people feel stupid. They did this to facilitate better communication between people. If the world could use one thing more than anything else right now, it would be better communication and understanding. On that, I think both Grammar Hawks and Grammar Hippies can agree.

There’s the Rub

 

I have a love/hate relationship with massage. On the one hand, I enjoy giving them and I’ve been told I’m very good at it. On the other hand, I’ve yet to receive one that left me feeling better, not worse.

 

 

My physical therapist is astounded by how tight and stiff my neck, shoulders and back are. And knead, push and pull as she might, I don’t seem to loosen up. So, I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to give massage another shot.

The last experience I had with massage was over a decade ago and I don’t remember much except that during and after, I felt like a baseball bat hit me all over my body. From my experience as a massage giver, I know that’s not the way to get repeat business (or a another date, for that matter).

You may be wondering (or at least I hope you are), just how I learned to give massages. Well, I have to take you back to the not-so-golden days of high school. At St. Rose Academy, Christmas break really didn’t mean a complete break. The week before school was to resume, we were given a choice of activities from which to choose for our intellectual or cultural enrichment. These included:

Travel: Enjoy a week in Lake Tahoe or Mazatlan with a teacher as chaperone. I don’t know what exactly skiing in Tahoe was supposed to teach but the case could be made for brushing up on your Spanish in Mexico. I’m sure there were many girls who asked, “¿Donde esta Ramon? El es muy guapo.” This option was chosen by: Rich girls generally, and slutty, rich girls, specifically.

Volunteering: Work at a soup kitchen, help at the local recycling center or other such worthy endeavors. This option was chosen by: Really religious girls or girls looking to pad those college applications with heart string-pulling extra-curricular activities.

Classes: Show up at school and learn something that isn’t part of the standard curriculum during the year. I distinctly remember learning dance steps to The Manhattan Transfer’s Boy From New York City in one such class. To this day, I dislike that song. Another class offering was shiatsu massage. This option was chosen by: You guessed it. Me.

It was a couple years later while in college that I picked up that old massage book and starting practicing on my friends. I don’t recall how it came up in conversation but when my friends found out that I learned shiatsu massage, they begged me to give them all one. (Oh, how I wished some cute girl would have wanted a massage. But, alas, I was still trying to convince myself that I was straight. Unsuccessfully, I might add.)

Back then, a typical Saturday night for me and the dateless bunch I hung out with consisted of drinking wine, talking about ideas (philosophy, politics, etc.), and listening to music. Most often our music of choice was mellow and along the lines of Sade or Bryan Ferry. Ferry’s Boys and Girls album provided the primary musical background to those evenings. (Too bad it wasn’t the background to other kinds of evenings with people who weren’t my friends, if you catch my drift.)

I do miss those days. I was young and in college and my life was ahead of me, full of possibilities. I enjoyed deep conversations and even deeper laughs. Fast forward 26 years and the only place I seem to experience either chat or chuckles is via social media. While Twitter and Facebook can do many things, you can’t give or get a massage and discuss past lives while this plays in the background:

Too bad.

Even Barbie Has a Tattoo

I don’t like tattoos. I find them unattractive and I’ve never seen the appeal. Now, if you or someone you love have tattoos, that’s your business. There are reasons why I will never get one and I’ll get to those shortly. A couple things happened the other day that brought the topic of tattoos front and center.

 

 

The first trigger was hearing about Barbie getting a tattoo. My first reaction was to roll my eyes. I remember when Ken got facial hair in the 70s. Um, yeah. Groovy.

I had every Barbie accessory. My Barbie lived in the townhouse with the working elevator. She had the dune buggy and camper. And she even used to date my best friend Tony’s Big Jim. (What do you mean Big Jim isn’t an accessory?!) Perhaps “date” is not the correct term for what Barbie and Big Jim were doing. What do you call taking Ken to the prom and as soon as he gives you a chaste peck on the cheek you’re calling Big Jim to come over and demonstrate how his prehensile hands work? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

So, the idea of Barbie getting tattoos doesn’t surprise me considering that they’re more common nowadays. I still remember when having a tattoo was stigmatized. People made judgments about someone based on having tattoos. Is this right? No, but we all make judgments about people based on many factors. Anyone who says he or she doesn’t, needs to book that flight to Rome for canonization for sainthood.

The second event that got me to thinking about tattoos was a woman I saw at physical therapy. She was older than me, perhaps in her late 50s. As I get older, it’s harder for me to guess someone’s age. In any case, she wasn’t some nubile young thing with a toned torso and beautiful biceps. She was an average, older woman except for one thing. Her arms and legs were covered with tattoos.

The sight of her made me think about why I’ll never get a tattoo:

Pain: Listen, lab technicians have enough problems finding a vein when I need blood drawn. I can’t imagine willingly subjecting myself to skin carving. I’m a lot of things, but a masochist isn’t one of them.

Tattoos Don’t Age Well: A tattoo of some hot, curvy babe on your muscular biceps may look great when you’re in your 20s. Look in the mirror when you hit 50 and your biceps haven’t been curled in years, buddy boy. Add to this, the effect of sun damage and wrinkles, and you get the picture. And it’s not pretty.

Tattoos Are Permanent: I’m in a constant state of flux of what I like and what I believe. It would be just my luck to get a yin-yang symbol tattooed on my ass only to become Amish some day. Great. Try explaining that to my husband Yoder. Then again, he’s named Yoder and he wears a goofy beard. And there’s that little fact that I’m a lesbian. But, you get my drift.

So, friends, if you decide to get a tattoo, remember to stay in shape, keep out of the sun and moisturize and don’t put anything on your body that you may be embarrassed about later. You’d be surprised how bitchy those Amish women can get around the sewing circle.

Babies Crawl and So Does My Skin

Some of you may remember my rant about the Nutella commercial in which I take umbrage with the premise that giving Nutella to your kids for breakfast is acceptable. Well, boys and girls, once again a commercial has elicited a strong reaction from me and yes, it relates to my childhood. (I know that you’re shocked.)

This time the commercial is for Huggies and it features miscellaneous toddlers crawling all over the floor. I’m sure that most people find it cute, perhaps even amusing. It creeps me out. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Why, you may be asking, does this commercial bother me so much? Well, to answer this question, I need to give you a little back story that may help. In my first post on this blog, I told you that my parents tried for nine years to have a baby and after multiple medical tests and novenas, ta dah! I was born.

Well, with all that effort, you can imagine how wanted I was and how protective my parents were. (I wasn’t allowed to cross the street by myself until I was 10. I’m not kidding.) One of the ways my parents protected me was by controlling my environment. Compared to the rounded corners, helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and the like that today’s kids deal with, my parents seem almost negligent. Then again, back in the 1960s and 1970s, kids got boo-boos and weren’t micro-managed. But that is a different post.

There was one area in particular in which my mother was obsessed. Dirt. I’ve written about growing up with an aversion to the beach because sand was dirty and dangerous. My mother had the same fear about floors. Not any particular floor, but all surfaces on which you walk: linoleum, wood, carpet and of course, pavement. These surfaces were teeming with all sorts of disgusting and unmentionable things. When I was a teenager, my mother and I were at some function and I saw the look she got on her face when some mother put her kid down on the floor to crawl. The look was a combination of shock and disgust.

Naturally, I asked her about this and here’s how the conversation went.

Kelly
What’s that look for?

Mom
That baby. Crawling all over the floor.

Kelly
That’s what babies do.

Mom
You didn’t. We didn’t let you.

Kelly
What do you mean you didn’t let me?

Mom
Floors, no matter how clean, are not
hygienic. That child over there had his
hands where shoes and dogs have been.
Now his fingers are in his mouth. God
knows what germs he’s picked up.

Kelly
O-kay. How did you stop me from crawling?

Mom
You went from standing in your playpen to
walking. Every night, your father or I would stand at
the opposite end of the playpen and get you to walk
to us. Then you started walking all over the place.

Kelly
(mumbling)
Except across the street alone.

Mom
What was that?

Kelly
Nothing. Nothing at all.

So, according to my mother, I went from this:


to this without missing a proverbial beat.

(There was no way this outfit was going to get dirty, no sirree!)

So fast forward to me today at age 46 and this commercial comes on. I don’t see happy, giggling kids scampering across the floor. I see little human Petri dishes of disease. I bet you’re not surprised that I decided not to have children, are you? My cats are enough work and it’s a good thing that they wash their own paws. But, I do have these on hand just in case…

Tennis, Anyone? (Part Two)

As I wrote in my last post, my love of tennis has returned and much of that is due to a young woman from Australia named Samantha Stosur. Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard, she defeated Serena Williams handily in the U.S. Open final yesterday, 6-2, 6-3. Sam became the first Australian woman since Margaret Court in 1973 to win the U.S. Open. While this is great cause for celebration for Australia and Australian tennis, it’s great for anyone who values champions with class.

There was some controversy at the beginning of the second set that almost tilted the momentum to Serena Williams. The umpire deemed Serena’s celebratory scream after she struck a ball before the point was over as as a violation of the Hindrance Rule and awarded Sam the point, which gave her the game. Serena then behaved like a petulant brat and unfortunately the crowd started pulling for her.

This situation reminded me just how much I dislike the idea of rooting for someone simply because he or she is from your country. I support a player because I like him or her not because he or she is an American. An acquaintance on Twitter took offense at my characterization of the crowd as jingoistic yet she basically admitted that she was rooting for Serena simply because of her citizenship. This is not the Olympics or the World Cup where supporting your country is natural and appropriate.

Add to this mix the emotions of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and this could have gotten really ugly. Luckily for Stosur and for the game of tennis, she remained composed and let her playing do the talking for her. I hope that when people look back on this match, they’ll give Stosur the credit she deserves for her high-quality play and her grace under pressure. What we don’t need is any whining about a bad call (which it was not) or excuses for Serena’s lackluster performance. Serena Williams is an incredibly talented player who will go down as one of the greatest to have ever played. On Sunday, however, a 27 year-old from Down Under was better.

What’s the Big Idea?

In this article by Neal Gabler in the August 13, 2011 New York Times, the author discusses his belief that ideas just aren’t what they used to be. In fact, he states,

 

“In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world -
a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t
instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that
fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are
disseminating them, the Internet, notwithstanding.
Bold ideas are almost passé.”

I think Gabler is onto something here. Just take a look at television programming. Now, I’m not about to get on some high-brow horse and lament the decline of television because of reality shows, blowhard pundits and the like. There have always been clowns on television, literally and figuratively. What we used to see more of, however, was programming that also appealed to the intellect. Even with the hundreds of channels available today, how much intellectual stimulation do you find around the dial?

As a pre-teen, in addition to heavy doses of reruns of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on PBS, I was often riveted to Firing Line. (Yes, I was a precocious child.) For any of you too young to remember it, Firing Line was hosted by conservative writer and thinker William F. Buckley, Jr., and it featured Buckley debating the issues of the day with leading intellectuals, politicians and other public figures. The pace was slow, the atmosphere, polite. Listening to, let alone reading Buckley, virtually required doing so with a dictionary in your hands.

Yes, I realize that Firing Line was on PBS and not network television, but still, I don’t believe it would even work on PBS today. No one in the public sphere seems to be interested in discussion and dissemination of ideas. Civility seems to be like some outdated Victorian notion. It’s all about the sound bite and one-upsmanship. Watch any news show anywhere on television tonight and listen for the raised voices, the constant interruption of one speaker by another, and the vitriol.

The Information Age has given us access to endless amounts of data, but that doesn’t translate into necessarily understanding that data. In essence, we possess trivia that makes for useful cocktail party conversation or 140 character tweet-sized bites. This isn’t inherently bad, mind you; it’s just ultimately unsatisfying if that’s where the inquiry end. It’s fast food information.

Don’t get me wrong. I love social media and I love that when some inane trivia question wakes me up in the middle of the night (Don’t laugh. This happens.), I’m almost 100% certain that with a few keystrokes, I can find the answer. But, aside from helping me go back to sleep, did learning the answer to that question add any tangible value to my life? Most likely, the answer is “no”. As Gabler concludes,

What the future portends is more and more information –
Everests of it. There won’t be anything we won’t know. But
       there will be no one thinking about it. Think about that.”

I intend to think about it. What about you?

The Art of the Matter

     I’m going to this exhibition today and I’m very excited. I’m a big fan of the Dutch Masters (and I’m not talking the cigars). I don’t claim to know anything about art, but I know what I like. Basically, I like trees that look like trees, people who look like people, etc. I like subtle use of light and shadow. This is the main reason that I like artists like Johannes Vermeer. And it’s a main reason why I don’t like modern art. I mean, if a painting looks like either:

 

 

(a) something that a kid in kindergarten could do with finger paints (Mark Rothko – “Number 9″)

or

 

 

(b) something one of my cats threw up (Jackson Pollock – “Number 4″), I don’t see it as art. Sorry, I just don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

    The most modern I get are the Impressionists. I like the colors and you can still discern what the shapes are in the paintings. As is the case with this work by Claude Monet:

 

“Le Grenoillere” (1869)

 

 

 

     Picasso, I don’t get at all. I know there’s symbolism and all that but nobody can convince me that the craftsmanship in this:

 

 

“Woman With a Flower” (1932)

(There’s a woman? There’s a flower? I’m lost.)

is comparable to this famous Vermeer painting:

 

 

 

 

“Girl With a Pearl Earring” (1665)

 

 

 

 

     Maybe they’re not supposed to be compared? Like comparing punk to classical is a pointless musical exercise? I don’t know.

     I want to be open-minded, I really do. For example, I used to deride soccer as “hockey on grass” and claim that it was boring. Now, that I’m understanding it a bit more and following the Wolverhampton Wanderers, I now appreciate the “beautiful game”. Will this happen for me with modern art? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll take a chance and go to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art one of these days. But, alas, today is not that day. Today I get to remain in my comfort zone and gaze at the artistry of works like this by Jan van der Heyden:

 

“View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam” (1667-70)

(Courtesy of the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection).

 

 

 

      Ah, very nice.