Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Do You Want a Revolution?

Coretta Scott King has passed away.

I feel like a distant family member has died. Like suppose you had a great-aunt who used to visit you occasionally while you were growing up, and then she moved to Paraguay, so you didn't see her much anymore but still exchanged notes and letters here and there, so there was a residual fondness even if you weren't seeing her on a regular basis, and then one day, you learned that she had passed on. I think for many Americans (and particularly, for black Americans, of course), Coretta was a member of our larger extended family.

I am sad. My heart goes out to her family.

What is even sadder is come of the comments that I've seen today on a newsgroup discussion. Sample:
What a shame she didn't die sooner. And it's a shame the rest of the niggas in America aren't dead yet either.
What, you thought racism was a thing of the past? Please.

I know the King legacy was all about the nonviolence, but this kind of shit makes me so angry I could slap the shit out of someone. Never mind the larger racist context, what kind of ignorant dirtball says something so disrespectful about someone on the very day of their death?

Other idiots are posting comments like,
She was great on "The "Jeffersons" [sic] We'll miss you Weazy [sic].
So, so, witty. Sigh.

We've been looking for a new place to live, and we've been considering two neighborhoods not far from our own. The demographics of the first one are a mix of white, Latino, Thai, and Korean. This neighborhood is a kind of funky, artsy, walkable area with lots of great little shops, plentiful yoga, and very nearby a park. The second neighborhood is more a mix of black, Latino, and Korean. There's not as much stuff to walk to, but the housing blend has more of what we're looking for (larger, side-by-side duplexes) and there's a nice neighborhoody feel. If we moved to the first neighborhood, getting Viva to her current school would be a hassle, so we would probably take her out and enroll her in a different school. Anecdotal evidence suggests that while these schools have a mix, our choices are either a predominantly white school or one in which the kids are mainly Latino and Asian -- either of which means Viva would very likely be the only black kid in her class.

If we moved to the second neighborhood, it's close enough to our current location that we could keep Viva in her current school, where her class is a slightly different mix. Out of the 12 kids in her class, four are black, three are of Asian heritage, three are white, one is Latino, and one is Middle Eastern. The racial/ethnic makeup of this school was one of its main selling points to me.

Given the bullshit I've been reading today, I don't think I have to tell you which neighborhood I'm leaning toward.

And if that means I've ventured over into, "But if you don't want to move there, the terrorists have won" territory, so be it. In the meantime, keep the dream alive. I'm out.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Sick kid + no nap = tantrums every 5 minutes.

New residence: At Wit's End.

Send backup.

And a margarita, please. On the rocks, with salt.

Nothing to See Here

Oh my Gawd, I may actually have scored a freelance gig. Keep your fingers crossed, but it looks like a sure thing. Before you get too excited, it's probably going to average less than 10 hours a week and they will pay me hourly, but you know what? I'll get to work from home, writing (i.e., using my brain, to do grown-up stuff, sort of). So you won't hear me complaining, not one little bit.

Status on Viva: still sick, despite copious doses with Children's Triaminic (samples from pediatrician). Still home. Still 2-going-on-3 and thus making every second spent in her presence that much more memorable.

More on writing: I have begun a short essay for a specific publication, only to realize that my original idea has morphed into something rather different (as so often happens) and it probably isn't what they're looking for. I do think it might be publishable elsewhere, but I have to do some research on where...

More on Viva: apparently not napping, and making a huge amount of noise in her room. Later...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Simple Pleasures are the Best

Viva is glued to the television set. I admit I am glad for a break while she listens to Laurie Berkner on Jack's Big Music Show. I call my friend, Coolia, to let her know we can't meet up today and that we have an appointment with the pediatrician this afternoon. Viva overhears me and that leads to this exchange:

Viva: 'member when we went to the dentist?
Mama: Yes, I remember.
Viva: I want to go to the dentist. [cough, cough, hack, hack, falls over onto her sleeping bag on the living room floor]
Mama: But, baby, there's nothing wrong with your teeth! How can Dr. M help your cough?
Viva [impatiently]: I don't want to go to the doctor*, I want to go to the dentist!
Mama: Okay, how can the dentist help your cough?
Viva [smiling]: He can do something to my heart!
Mama: Oh, I see. You must really like the dentist. What do you like best about the dentist?
Viva: His cup.
Mama: His cup? Why?
Viva: Because you can spit in the cup when you have water in your mouth, and it swirls!

* Viva refuses to accept the concept that the dentist is actually a doctor. I have caved to this for the moment. You have to choose your battles.

In other world news (literally, sort of): this morning while I was in the shower, someone left a message on our voicemail, entirely in German. Well, almost entirely. He said, "Ciao!" at the end. I love this kind of stuff, so I called Sweet William to tell him to listen to the message. Just as I hung up with him, the phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but answered it anyway. A woman started speaking to me in German.

Mama: Excuse me?
German-speaking woman: Oh, hello, this is Helga calling from Germany? Is Elba there?
Mama: I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong number.
GSW: Oh, I'm so sorry. [click]

Of course, then I had to call Sweet William back and tell him that apparently someone named Elba has recently moved and given out the wrong number to all her international friends. Hello, international friends! I don't speak German, so I foresee all kinds of hilarious miscommunication coming our way.

Okay, signing off -- Viva has finally dragged herself away from the TV and is insisting I make her a yellow fan. Sayonara...

Status Report

Viva: miserable. Worst cough ever. Trying to get her in to see her pediatrician before the weekend.

Mama: depressed. Unemployed. Feeling stuck. Whatever. At least I'm not sick again. Yet.

For all my blog readers, real and imaginary: if you want to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, I'm now using Bloglines*. There should be a button at the bottom of the blog sidebar. If you're having trouble (with the feed, not with other stuff, you can see I can barely figure out my own life), leave a comment here and I'll see if I can get to it either later today or over the weekend.

* Thanks for reminding me to do this, American Family ma'am (I think your name is Amber, but I can't for the life of me find corroboration. That looks like a misspelling. Agh.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Okay, I lied.

I know I said my next post would knock your socks off, but: sick kid at home. Every time I turn on my laptop, she starts shoving at me to get out of the chair so she can play games on noggin.com or pbskids.org.

At this very moment, she is sitting at my feet, insisting on her turn, and while she's waiting, drawing pictures on her DoodlePro and insisting I look up every two seconds to see what she's drawn.


See you soon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone

I promise that tomorrow I will write a post that will knock. Your. Socks. Off. Blow. Your. Mind. And the like.

But today, I am busy writing my Christmas thank you notes (it being nearly a month since Christmas. Whee, I am so very on top of things), so I am falling back on, well, my fallback position, to wit: Viva la Vivaisms!

Here are some random things Viva has said recently. I feel no need to provide context.

1. That is not incredible.

2. Knock it off, door!

3. Who let the dorms out? Hoop, hoop, hoop!

4. Momma, I want to be fancy!

And here are some recent exchanges, with a little context for variety.

This morning, 7 AM. Viva still in the bed.

Viva: I thought you were my daddy. But now I’m mad.
Mama: You’re mad because Daddy didn’t come to wake you up?
Viva: I’m mad because I DON’T LIKE YOU.


We are driving into our parking garage and stop to let someone pass. I smile and say hello.

Viva: Who’s that?
Mama: I don’t know his name, he’s some friend of [our neighbor]’s. You’ve seen him before.
Viva: You said hi to him. What’s his name?
Mama: I don’t know. What do you think his name is?
Viva: Zindazap.


Viva [at the dinner table]: I’m finished. Can I get down?
Sweet Wills: Okay, if you're done.
Viva [five minutes later]: Where’s my food?
Mama: You said you were finished, so I put your food away.
Viva [instantaneous tears]: I’m still HUNGRY!
Mama: Wait a minute, I’m not playing that game. You said you were finished, so I put your food away. And now it’s time to take your shower. [Shrill “I am totally losing my shit” screaming commences.] I need to wash your hair. But after you take your shower, you can sit down in front of the TV and have some more food while I do your hair.
Viva: Oh. [happily] Can I watch A Shark Tale?
Mama: Yes, fine, okay. After your shower.
Viva: But I don’t want to take a shower. Or a bath.
Mama: I understand. But you didn’t take one yesterday, so take a quick one right now and then you can have your –
Viva: I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A SHOWER! [Crying and screaming re-commence.]
Mama: Mother of GOD.
Viva [twenty minutes later]: Where’s my food?
Mama: Can I dry you off first?
Viva: Are we gonna watch the movie?
Mama: Yes, let me get your pajamas on.
Viva: I’m thirsty. Can I have a drink?
Mama: Hang on, I’m microwaving your food.
Viva: Oh, thanks. Where’s my drink?
Mama: Here it is.
Viva: What happened to the movie?
Mama: Hold on, I’m getting it.
Viva: Mmm, good [chewing]. I’m hungry. Can I have some more?
Mama: Hang on.
Viva: I don’t like this movie.
Mama: [head explodes]

Monday, January 23, 2006

Attitude of Gratitude

Quick post, because I don't generally post over the weekends, and I start to feel a little off-kilter if I don't write something on Mondays:

Across the street from our apartment building sits a small Craftsman bungalow. Like many of the little classic California bungalows in our area, it was recently purchased and refurbished and put back on the market. Sweet William and I have watched the renovation of this house with great interest. The new owners, who obviously bought the property with the sole intention of flipping it in a hot real estate market, put a lot of time and money into the house. There was some serious digging in the front yard, along with what looked like the replacement/repair of old pipes. They repainted the exterior, put in an electric gate across the driveway, added a fence, and landscaped the yard. And this is just what we could see from the outside.

So it was with heady anticipation that we noted "Open House Sunday" on the For Sale sign in the front yard, and yesterday, with Viva conveniently slumber-partying over at her auntie's house, we jauntily made our way across the street to take a look inside.

Nice. Stone fireplace in the living room, beautiful dark hardwood floors throughout, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. Two not-so-large bedrooms, two decent-sized bathrooms with brand-new tile and spankin'-new fixtures. Small deck off the kitchen, leading to a small yard and a guest house in the back. Approximate size of the main house: 1,100 SF.

Guess how much the original list price was? $945,000. But wait! They just reduced it to $897,500! What a deal!

We walked back across the street, minds blown and resigned to renting for quite some time. This is not a mansion, my friends. It is a modest home in a mixed commercial-residential area. In terms of size, it is the perfect starter home. But who the hell can pay close to a million bucks for a starter home?

We are nothing if not practical. We sat down, complained about it, and concluded that the housing market is completely overpriced, that the owners are not going to get their asking price because the market is cooling, and that we will both be fine with renting a nice place with a yard, when we find one, because we can find one for less than half the amount that a mortgage like that would cost.

Still and all, though, we were a little depressed by this.

This morning, after I dropped Viva off at school and drove home to clean the cluttered box that is my apartment, I pulled up in the driveway of my "luxury" apartment building, hit the remote, and waited for the parking garage gate to open. Standing a few yards away with a shopping cart was an enterprising woman who comes to our building and goes through our garbage on a regular basis. Since our trash chute empties into a garbage room located inside the parking garage, she has to wait until somebody opens the garage so she can get access.

Some might call that trespassing.

I will admit that I was initially irritated to see her. She called out "thanks" to me as the gate swung open. I muttered to myself, "Thanks for what? Thanks for letting you go through the trash?!"

And then I realized what a ridiculous juxtaposition it was, not just that I was driving into my home in the sports sedan that my husband pays for, since I don't "have to" work, and feeling pissy at this person who doesn't have all the options I do, but also that the guys across the street think they can command nearly a million dollars for a house in a neighborhood whose cast of characters include the homeless, the transvestite and transgender prostitutes on the stroll, and the assortment of tweakers and club kids that occasionally wake us up at 4 AM.

One of the things I really admired about Sweet William when I first started getting to know him was his attitude. More specifically, I liked it that he believed himself to be blessed -- with his family, with his job, with the opportunities that had come his way in life -- and that he was genuinely grateful. He did not (and does not) ever take anything for granted. He is endlessly adaptable and always, always grateful for what he has.

I can't stand a Pollyanna, don't get me wrong. But it doesn't seem to me to be a bad thing to step back and reassess, when things seems to be going badly, what is going well. You can always find something to be grateful for.

And thus ends my sermon of the day.

Be well, and be grateful.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

If Work was Fun, They’d Call it “Play”

I have been doing a lot of thinking about work lately. I’ve been thinking about what kind of work I can do, what kind of work I want to do, how to find a part-time job that utilizes my skills and pays enough to make it worth it, whether I should take a full-time job despite my desire not to have my daughter in preschool for 9 hours a day, how do other women manage the work-life balance, why haven’t I been hired yet, why is the sky blue, do these jeans make my butt look big, and, most importantly, should I cut my hair or grow it out?

This is what occupies a lot of my waking time when I’m not at the post office, the gas station, or the grocery store. I confess I do think about it sometimes when I’m doing laundry or doing yoga.

I will admit right here and now, right up front, that while I thought I’d be raring to get back to work after Viva got settled in school, the reality is, um, not so much.

I was talking with my friend CC this weekend about it while our 2-year-olds were chasing each other around the playground. We are both in our mid-30s, and in our youths, both thought that by this point in our lives, we’d have major big jobs – serious careers – lovely husbands, and a couple of kids a piece, in daycare from the age of 2 months on*.

“I thought I’d be, I don’t know, Secretary of State or something,” CC said. We laughed.

“And I thought, ‘Hey, it’s no big deal to put your kid in daycare,’” I said. “Easy to say when you’re childless and in your early 20s.”

“I know,” CC said. “Once you have a kid, it’s like, ‘Oh, no way am I putting her in daycare.”

We have both made financial sacrifices to be able to care for our kids ourselves. CC, for example, took a job teaching adult ed part-time, so she and her writer husband could split childcare. This is despite her training and work experience as an attorney – clearly a more financially rewarding alternative.

* At least we got the lovely husbands, and one kid each.

Sweet William and I decided five years ago, before we were even married, that I should quit my full-time job and try to make a go of consulting, so I’d be able to work part-time from home once we started our family. This worked for a couple of years, until I was pregnant, in my second trimester, and my fibroids started degenerating to such a painful degree that I couldn’t get out of the house to see clients. I stopped working.

When Viva was six months old, I went through the motions of getting back into the groove, but it was difficult to schedule things around naps and babysitters and the like. Inevitably, someone would call just after she’d woken up, and I wasn’t feeling terribly professional about having to say, "I’ll have to call you back, my baby just woke up.”

At any rate, when Viva was eight months old, Sweet William got recruited away from his job to a bigger, better job that paid substantially more. Substantially, as in we jumped up and down when they messengered the job offer letter to our apartment and we saw the compensation package. We then talked it over and agreed I wouldn’t worry about working until Viva started preschool at age 2, at which point I would have to work to pay for her to go to school. (I know, the logic of this sounds bizarre, but at 2, she was really ready to go to school – she loved being around other kids, and she loved all the different activities scheduled there. I admit to being at the end of my rope in terms of trying to come up with a variety of things to do every day when it was just the two of us at home, and I was thinking it wouldn’t be so bad to be around grownups myself.)

Blah blah blah, so here we are. Viva started preschool full-time in August, and I started looking for a job, without much clear direction of what I was looking for. This has caused some delays in the process. And I was sick for much of the fall and early winter, leading me to abandon my job search in December until after the holidays.

Now I am back in the special purgatory reserved for the professional job seeker, and it is only made worse by my reading books like Bait and Switch and articles like “Everybody Hates Linda.” In Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich goes undercover in the world of the white-collar unemployed. She does everything possible to get a job – she consults career coaches, takes personality tests, networks, networks, networks, gets an image makeover – and at the end of seven months, she is still unemployed.

I’ll wait while that sinks in. Now, let me share some quotes from the book with you:
“…the cost of health insurance has become a major disincentive to job creation; companies would rather outsource or hire benefit-less “contract workers” than take on the burden of providing insurance for new hires.” (Bait and Switch, page 236)

“On many fronts, the American middle class is under attack as never before. …the 2005 federal bankruptcy bill, which eliminates the possibility of a fresh start for debt-ridden individuals, will condemn more of the unemployed and underemployed to a life of debt peonage. Meanwhile, escalating college costs threaten to bar their own children from white-collar careers. And as company pensions disappear, the president is campaigning vigorously to eviscerate Social Security.” (ibid, same page)
If that doesn’t depress you, how about this: of eleven fellow white-collar job seekers she met along the way, by the end of her experiment, none had yet found a “real” job. Some had taken on survival jobs (waiting tables, moving furniture, cleaning toilets), and some had moved in with family members to get by.

I am certainly not saying that things are that bad for me. But it does give me pause.

Sweet William recently had lunch with a friend of his from law school. His friend spends 6 days a week at work and sees his daughter for only about 25 minutes in the evenings after he gets home from work and before she goes to bed. I guess there’s always Sundays. In the meantime, his wife, who is a writer for a sitcom, has been offered to opportunity to script a pilot for an influential producer. It is a HUGE break, but comes just at the time when they are discussing whether or not to have a second child (their daughter is also 2, just a few months younger than Viva).

His wife is torn. She barely sees the baby she has, and getting a pilot off the ground while keeping her existing job is going to take all her time. Her husband’s response: “Well at least you’d be giving her someone to play with.”

“You’re kind of at opposite ends of the spectrum,” Sweet William said. “She wants more time to stay home, and you want more time out of the house, to go back to work.”

We’re not so different, though. We are both trying to find that perfect work-life balance. The question for both of us is how to work and yet have enough time for our families. I am still working this out. (Clearly!)
Detractors of "workplace feminism" say it failed to factor in the realities of caregiving, but its fatal weakness was optimism. It's actually a little embarrassing to think how easily we were persuaded that once qualified women had a chance to prove their mettle in the professional and skilled labor force, the bastions of male privilege would come tumbling down. (“Everybody Hates Linda,” Judith Stadtman Tucker.)
Okay, so workplace feminism somehow forgot about the kids. And now I have to deal with The Gap.

No, I’m not breaking down and deciding to get a retail job (yet). Barbara Ehrenreich found that a Gap in your resume (and yes, she capitalized it, because her career consultants made such a big deal over it) pretty much shuts you out of consideration for a job. This is true even when The Gap is covered by a period of time you did consulting work. Yes, like me. And explaining that The Gap is the result of staying home to raise your kid? Oh, it's just not done.

So, I’m not exactly having a pity party over here, but I’m not all that gung-ho about the job search thing, either. Maybe I need a dose of Tony Robbins. Hey, it worked for Jack Black!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Let the Music Play

Aron’s Records has been a Hollywood institution for many years. I’ve spent many a pleasant moment (mostly pre-Viva) wandering the aisles, discovering new music at Aron’s and at other independent music stores like Rockaway Records and Hear Music (which, strangely, appears to have sold out to Starbucks, which is a damn shame).

Aron’s is now closing after 40 years. If you look at their Website, they don’t give a reason why, but it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine they’ve been squeezed out by Amoeba Records, which opened on Sunset Blvd., a hop skip and a jump away, a couple of years ago.

The other day, I was driving past Hollywood and Highland, the huge mall complex which has made my corner of Hollywood even more traffic-congested, and I saw a sign for Virgin Megastore.

Virgin Megastore, brainchild of such a freakin’ corporate giant that it has partnered with Amazon.com, so if you click on any Virgin advertising online, it actually takes you to an Amazon site. Yecch, it makes my skin crawl.

It kind of feels like Wal-Mart just moved in. Aron’s, which is within walking distance of my apartment, is the kind of cramped, low-budget, wonderfully unique hangout of musicians (real and wannabes) and music lovers of all stripes that I love. It has a kind of home-grown, get your hands dirty kind of appeal. Amoeba Records duplicates that feel, kind of, on a larger scale. Perhaps because Amoeba only has three locations anywhere (Berkeley, San Francisco, Hollywood), so it’s still kind of funky and real. Virgin Megastore, on the other hand? Please.

So Virgin Megastore is opening just blocks up the street from Aron’s. Perhaps the coming of Virgin is what sounded the final death knell. I don’t know. I’m just kind of bummed out when I see a local business close its doors.

Less than a year ago, one of our local indie papers, LA Citybeat, had this to say about Aron’s:

Even in the era of Amoeba, it remains popular with DJs because, unlike Amoeba, it has listening stations. With its consistently well-stocked shelves, Arons in many ways sets the prototype of a successful indie record store. “We’re still alive and kicking,” says longtime employee DJ Sacred.

For those about to rock, we salute you. Hugs and kisses, Aron’s.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


On Sunday, the Blah Blah family bundled up and went to the L.A. Zoo. We decided to become members, since (a) we live about 15 minutes away from the zoo and (b) Viva enjoys it. Now, quite some time ago, I remember hearing something about problems with the Zoo, particularly with its elephant exhibit, but since the Zoo has been undergoing extensive renovations for a while, I thought these were all resolved.

Are you already feeling the ka-thwonk! of foreshadowing as it settles upon your shoulders?

Viva's favorite animal at the Zoo is, of course, the elephant. Our goal was to visit the Zoo and see lots of animals along the way, but the zenith of our expedition was to be the elephant exhibit so Viva could get her fix.

Please note that I haven't been to the Zoo since Viva was young enough to deign to be carried in a baby backpack. She and Sweet William went to the Zoo together in December, while I was at home hacking up all manner of disgusting fluids, which is why we know that she is crazy for the elephant.

Once we got our temporary membership cards and sailed through the special membership entrance*, I said, "Okay, cool, let's go see some elephants!"

Sweet William said, "Well, there's really only one elephant. And he's in this really small enclosure, probably because everything is under construction."

Naively, I chirped, "Oh, I'm sure they've fixed that by now. Ooh, look, sea lions!"

So in our roundabout way (or really, the roundabout way of the Zoo, because nothing there is linear), we ambled through the Zoo, looking at flamingos and lions and zebras, and finally, we got to the elephant enclosure.

There was one elephant there, standing in one place, facing away from the crowd, and swinging his head repeatedly up and down (which we later learned is a neurotic behavior caused by being in too small a space). His enclosure looked hardly bigger than my living room. I felt kind of sick.

"This is not good," Will said.

"Yeah, he looks kind of depressed, yet agitated," I said.

As this was supposed to be the zenith of our trip, but in fact turned out to be the nadir instead, it cast a pallor over it all. However, Viva was already tired and we had already determined that once we saw the elephant, we would head back out. This we did, and ran into a pamphleteer outside the Zoo exit who urged us to sign a petition to help the elephants. I stopped and signed the petition and then wrote a postcard to my City Council Member.

I'm feeling all kinds of weird about it. We're now Zoo members, but we've discovered that the Zoo is mistreating some of the animals, so now I'm in the awkward position of both supporting and not supporting the Zoo.

Here's a link to Last Chance for the Animals, which explains why we should be pissed off about these poor elephants. If you live in the area and give a damn about it, click on the link and it will direct you to an online petition as well.

Shit. I have always been an animal lover (not in the bestial sense, thank you). This creeps me out.

* I made this up, and I can't help thinking of "The Special People's Club" in Welcome to the Dollhouse. WHAT??? You haven't seen Welcome to the Dollhouse? Okay, I'm going to sit right here while you go out and rent it. Make yourself some popcorn, settle in with a drink, and hit "play." After you finish watching it and have your bathroom break -- Hey! Wash your hands! -- come on back and let's talk. Did you not love that movie? Do you see what I'm saying about the Special People's Club?

Dawn: ...do you want to join my "Special People's Club?"
Steve: Special people?
Dawn: Yeah.
Steve: Do you know what "special people" means?
Dawn: What?
Steve: Special people equals retarded. Your club is for retards.

All the more fitting, given what we learned after we joined the damn Zoo. I admit to feeling a bit retarded.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I Have A Dream

And that dream is to write something pertinent and maybe poignant about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., being that today is a holiday celebrating his legacy. Something that would relate his achievements to where we as a nation are today, or something like that.

Unfortunately, Viva is home for the holiday, and quite emphatically not taking a nap.

My pithiness must wait for another day. At which point it will no longer be relevant, since the holiday will be over, right?

Edited to add:

Late breaking news from Yahoo!
AP Poll: Blacks Likelier to Celebrate MLK
WASHINGTON - Blacks are more likely than whites to commemorate Martin Luther King's birthday, an AP-Ipsos poll found. They're also more inclined to harbor doubts about progress toward his dream of racial equality.

Well, duh. Read more of this earth-shattering story here, if you feel so inclined.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Wily Thriller-Fantasy

Okay, I am so lame that I did not figure out that it was National De-Lurking Week until yesterday (Thursday) afternoon. I am so lame that I haven't de-lurked on anyone else's blogs during De-Lurking Week. Oh, wait, I did, earlier this week, but that was before I knew it was De-Lurking Week, so that doesn't really count (see previous remark on lameness).

For those that don't know what the hell I'm talking about (what else is new?): to delurk is to post a message to a newsgroup or Weblog where you've been lurking (reading messages without posting). Come on in, the water's fine!

If you decide to de-lurk, please let me know how you found this blog, roughly how long you've been reading it, and what brings you back. Or not.

In other exciting news, I've just posted a Web counter and can finally track site statistics. This "baby steps" approach toward figuring out all the useful things I want from my blog is actually working. Shocking in its simplicity.

Well, darlings, I must away. Please leave a comment if the mood strikes, and for those who have already done so earlier this week: welcome! I think I love you.

Have a fabboo weekend...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Compelling Story, Beautifully Told

Regular readers of this blog are aware that I spent the last third of 2005 sick, off and on.

Yesterday, I developed a sore throat.

Is this some sort of sick joke?*

* Totally unintentional pun! I just caught it when I was proofreading this before hitting the "publish" key. I'm funny even when I don't mean to be, or perhaps because I don't mean to be. Or perhaps I'm just not funny. Oh, whatever.

Following up on the Disney Princess rant: I have gone to Toys'R'Us, Target, the Disney Store, and K-Mart to see if I can get store credit for the Disney crap foisted upon us. Out of all of these stores, only one found one item in their system, with the result that I now have $10.81 in store credit at Toys'R'Us, and I ended up dropping the rest of the stuff off at Goodwill.

Heavy sigh.

Am feeling generally exhausted/rundown/out of sorts today.

Oh, but looka here -- here is what my mom would risk if she were able to allow her packrat mania to run unchecked:

Wash. Woman Suffocates Under House Clutter

I can't make this stuff up. It reads like a story out of The Onion, but it's true.

And now we come to the literary criticism portion of the Blah Blah blog. I don't have any serious literary pretensions or aspirations, being that I majored in...cultural. anthropology. which. is. so. lucrative. and. marketable. But I can say that my verbal SAT scores were very high, lo those many years ago, and my AP and ACT English scores were so spectacular that I placed out of Freshman English. Which makes absolutely no difference to my life right now, but I'm just saying. I seem to have some aptitude for this language, um, thing.

And I usually devour books quite quickly. I just finished Ahab's Wife, which was 666 pages, and took me nearly a week to read, and I have to say, I suspected the ending from the beginning, and was pissed as I saw it coming and yet still had to read the whole book to figure out how we were going to get there. This is not to say that I did not enjoy the book -- I did. I think it was very well-written, but I felt kind of cheated by the author. Nonetheless, read it if you dare -- it's an interesting look at women and gender roles in the 19th century, as well as a journey of self-discovery. (Ecch, did I just write that?)

And you will notice that, as often happens when I can't think of a title for my post, I've stolen a bookjacket blurb. It's kind of becoming my shtick.

And you? What are you reading these days? Do tell*, I must know.

* For the benefit of my friend, Mr. X, I must tell you the following story:

On one side of my family, I am descended from dirt-poor "mulattos" (as they were called then) who eked out their existence on the farms of easterm shore Virginia. One of my grandma's cousins was named Dutell, allegedly because when he was born, the midwife told his father, "It's a boy!" His response was, "Do tell!"

I have met Dutell, but I was a teenager then and very self-conscious and shy, and he was what seemed to me an older gentleman, deserving of some respect, so I never did ask him if this was true. Nonetheless, it is part of family lore and thus I pass it on to you.

And now, adieu. Off to pick up my little puka shell.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Free to Be You and Me?

I am a child of the '70s. It was a time of questioning, when people were saying, "Hey, wait a minute -- maybe it's not cool to oppress minorities and women and gay people. Maybe we need to step back a minute and think about our preconceived notions about what people's proscribed roles in society are. Maybe it's not cool to call people "crippled" or "retarded,"either. Wow, maybe we need to make a change."

I grew up with parents (mom and stepfather) who had stopped to think about it, and who decided they weren't going to go along with the status quo in terms of gender roles for their kids. I grew up hating pink, hating dresses and skirts, and wearing my hair cut short, "like a boy."* I grew up listening to the "Free to Be Me" album and thinking girls could fix cars and play baseball if they wanted to. I grew up receiving race car tracks and the Bionic Man doll on Christmas morning.

* In all honesty, this was partly because my mom couldn't deal with doing my hair, and partly because I couldn't deal with having it done. Perhaps I was tender-headed. I don't remember, but I had a little blonde Afro back then. I'll try and post pics if I have time.

As a result of this upbringing, I was all about feminism and gender and racial equality and not treating people differently based on what they looked like or what their sexual orientation was or whatever. I proudly enrolled in a women's college when the time came, and felt proud to be in a community of diverse, strong, ornery women. I've been involved with women's organizations on a variety of levels; I've volunteered my time, I've donated money, I've subscribed to magazines and written grants for women's programs. I've done the same with a variety of race-based organizations.

I was also raised to try and be of service in some way. My mom trained as a teacher, my stepfather as a paramedic. They both majored in sociology. We were poor as hell, but nonetheless, the pursuit of money as an end in itself was conveyed to me as vulgar and not something that was valued in my family. This was counterbalanced by my grandparents' emphasis on education as a means to self-sufficiency.

So this is how they raised me up. Fast forward to 2006:

This past weekend, we met up with my mom, grandma, sister and nephews to have lunch and exchange Christmas gifts. My grandma was in the hospital over Christmas, so we did not do the whole Christmas thing at the appropriate time. For a variety of reasons, this Saturday we ended up eating lunch and running out of time for opening gifts, due to the kids' nap schedules.

We loaded all the gifts into one another's cars, said our goodbyes, drove off on our separate ways. And when we got home, after Viva woke up, she opened a huge plethora of gifts -- among them, these:

Just in case you can't tell, they are, from left to right:

Disney Princess hopscotch, Disney Princess Cinderella Deluxe Dress-Up Set, and Disney Princess Deluxe Shoe Boutique.

Does anyone else perceive a bit of a disconnect? Given that I have just summarized my bringing-up for you, it should come as no surprise that I loathe the whole Disney princess propaganda machine with every fiber of my being. But aside from the sick message I believe it sends -- which is as anti-grrl-power as you can get, in my opinion -- my main issue is the fact that pretty much every ethnic group in the world is represented among the Disney princesses, except black and Hispanic. If you look at the hopscotch set, for example, you have a range of Caucasian/Anglo representation (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle), you have Middle Eastern (Jasmine), you have Asian (Mulan, who wasn't a princess), and you even have Native American (Pocahontas). For Christ's sake, you even have a mutant half-human, half-fish (Ariel)!

Why would you give this to a little black girl? It just makes me nuts. I will tell you honestly that Viva scored a whole lot of other stuff during this gift-opening extravaganza. Sweet William and I quietly removed the offending items one at a time while she was playing with other stuff, and I will be taking my ass to Toys'R'Us later this week to see if we can get store credit from this shit. I think my mom has lost her mind.

In happier news, Viva has a new little sister:

My grandma got this for her for Christmas. Viva has named her Kimbe (pronounced KIM-bee), which Sweet Wills and I have adopted with gusto. We like it because it sounds like Dikembe Mutombo, who we have always loved to imitate saying "I'm DOM-inating!" because he likes to say that he is a DOMinant player in the NBA. So we like to hold up the baby doll and pretend she is saying she is DOMinating. ...Um, I think this is one of those situations where if you have to explain it, it loses its funniness.

I need to add links for y'all, but I've run out of time -- must go get Viva. Perhaps I'll edit later. I'm out.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Smattering

I know, I shouldn't complain, but I went out this morning in jeans, boots, a tanktop and a sweater over it, with a blazer thrown over that, and now, it is:

Feels Like 82°F*

What the hell! A few days ago it was freezing and wet, and now this. Blame it on the ozone layer, which is to say, blame it on pollution by us thoughtless little Earthlings, which is to say, blame it on yourself. Isn't it great that it always comes back to that?

*Many thanks to the Weather Channel for confirming what I already suspected: it's frickin' hot.

Why I Need a Camera Phone, Moment #534

Today, I had lunch with one of my closest and dearest friends, Coolia. We spoke and laughed about many things, pretty much all of which are unpublishable. After lunch, I offered her a ride home, even though her place is within walking distance of the restaurant, mainly because I just adore her and couldn't stand to be without her. At any rate, as we were waiting to pull out onto the street from the restaurant driveway, a ruddy, white-bearded gentleman in a blue sedan motioned for us to pull ahead of him.

Mama Blah [waves and smiles]: Wow! How nice! Thanks, Mr. Claus!

Coolia: Oh my gosh, he does look like Santa Claus!

Mama Blah: Sweetie, his license plate says "Mr [sic] Claus."

Coolia: Oh my GAH! IT DOES!

So you might have thought the Christmas comments were over. You were obviously wrong. I still don't understand why he drives a blue car, though.

Just Because I Can

Viva's grandfather (Wash) gave her this dog many, many moons ago:

Out of all her toys and stuffed animals, this one keeps a certain niche in Viva's heart. He is not her favorite, but he is a steady companion. She changes the doll/toy she sleeps with every night, but he always stays on the bed. For her favorite toys, Viva generally assigns each a name and sticks with it. Not so, this dog. He never has the same name twice. For the past couple of weeks, when I remember to ask her, I've been writing down the Name of the Day. Here is a small sample:

Slummy Eye (my all-time favorite)

The names don't seem to follow any particular pattern. I kind of dig that.

And, finally...

Here's a church I might actually consider going to. At least they have a sense of humor.

Thank you, and good night.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Just a Suggestion or Two

I think the new year is a good time to change all your passwords on everything, just for security's sake. Make sure you write them down in a safe place. Don't tattoo them on your ass -- first, because you'd have to pull your pants down at inconvenient times, and second, because it's hard to twist around and see them when you need them and then there you are at the ATM with your pants yanked down, squinting because you forgot your glasses, hoping you don't get arrested and wishing to God you'd picked something simpler when choosing your new PIN for your debit card.

That's all I'm saying.

Also, you may want to switch browsers. If you've been using Internet Explorer all this time, this might be a scary step for you. But I have just switched to Firefox (which, in my total non-technogeek manner, I just typed as Foxfire - GAWD!), and my friends, I am all atwitter. It's so fast! And it imported all my bookmarks from IE for me. You can read a very convincing argument to switch via this old Washington Post article. I'm even going to add a Firefox button on my blog somewhere. See if you can find it!

Whew, madness and hijinks! I need to sit down.

But before I do: if you are starting any sort of exercise program as part of your new lease on life for the new year? Start slow, my friends. I'm popping Advil today due to post-workout slivers of fiberglass jabbing into my lower back.* They say exercise is good for you, but you can't prove it by me.

* This is figurative. And slightly exaggerated. Per usual.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Gettin' Techie on Yer Ass

After a full year* on Blogger, I actually added a blogroll to my sidebar.

I'll wait a minute for you to digest the full import of this news.

It's incomplete, but long overdue, by God!

I have Decided (not Resolved, as in a New Year's Resolution, because, come on, let's be serious) that, rather than flagellating myself over not having learned Web design last year, I am going to do my best to pick one thing at a time that I would like to learn to improve my site and I'm going to figure out how to do it. Baby steps, people.

Enjoy the Roll.

* Yes, I know if you look on the archives it appears that I have been posting on here since July 2004, but that's just because I went back and transferred old posts from my old site. It's actually only been about a year that I've been seriously blogging. And some would question whether "seriously" is accurate. Well, whatever, them!

Get Lost, 2005!

Hello, and Happy (Belated) New Year! Wow, it's January 3rd already -- this year is just flying by, i'nt it?

I hate to dwell on the negative, but -- oh, who are we kidding, we all know I live to dwell on the negative, right? Let me just say that 2005 kind of sucked for me personally, and I'm not sad to see it go. So, 2005 -- don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. Be gone, and with the quickness!

I for one welcome the beauty and promise of 2006, and pledge faithfully to exercise all the offices and duties therefrom. Or thereof. Oh, whatever.

Recent Viva-isms

"I like my toast dry."
When asked if she would like butter or jam on her toast. Just struck me as not something a 2-year-old would generally have an opinion about.

"We are not two persons. I am a person, but he is not a person."
At bedtime, in reference to her Little Bill* doll. This was her rejection of my explanation that she would not be sleeping alone.

"Jaden said, you are not growing. But I still eat my cheese."
This came completely out of nowhere when we were riding in the car recently. Jaden is one of her schoolmates.

"You have to fuck!"
Um, what she was actually saying was, "You have the fork." But because she had food in her mouth at the time, it came out sounding like that, which, because of how hopelessly immature I am, was funny to me.

More later, I'm off to the post office to buy some .02 stamps. Frickin' postal rate increase. Mad love!

* Later edited to add: I came back to add the link to the Little Bill doll, which is now impossible, because he is out of stock at the Nickelodeon store. He was hard to find and now I can't even get a picture of him up here. Cheezus!