wallowing in the 1970s
Monday, June 30, 2008
He was great, of course. He didn’t participate in skits but instead his stand-up was interspersed among the skits and musical performances by Billy Preston and his band of nattily dressed ‘70s hipsters, and poor, unhappy Janis Ian. Such a sad sack.
The ‘70s ... so long ago.
Carlin’s schtick about the irony of going through airport security and then being handed eating utensils was prescient. His joke about threatening a stewardess by cutting her throat with a piece of paper was disturbing.
And did you catch the TV commercial satire about a razor with three blades? Three blades! Can you imagine? Outlandish!
I think we’re up to five blades now. How high can we go?
My, how things have changed.
I’ve also been watching Maude on DVD again. Most disturbing: Maude is supposed to be 47 years old in the show. The disk I have includes an episode of Walter celebrating his 50th birthday.
I'm still waiting to feel older than Archie Andrews and now I learn I'm older than Maude.
Aside from that, this disk includes the episodes in which Maude gets pregnant. (Oy, she’s so upset, she needs a double something. Looks like Scotch.) She decides, after two episodes of discussion, to get an abortion. It was weird, just weird, to hear a discussion that frank and unburdened by politics or hysteria. Her daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau) was all over ditching that fetus. It’s hard to imagine any television show today touching this topic.
My how things have changed.
In another episode, Maude and her “housewife” friends decide to protest a young supermarket checker getting busted for pot by buying pot and all getting arrested.
The whole episode is like entering a parallel universe.
For example: Carol comes downstairs in the morning feeling groggy. Maude and Walter had kept her up fighting about the planned protest and so Adrienne finally had to give in and take a Valium, she explains. Oh, Maude can help--here's a Ritalin to wake her up. (“That’s what mommies are for.”)
Then, their doctor buddy Arthur stops by (with a hangover) and Walter hits him up for refills on their drugs--Secenol, Miltown, Librium.
Holy crap, Maude. You’re all hopped up on dolls! Who knew?
Yes, that’s the point—the hypocrisy of marijuana laws when people are taking all kinds of other drugs, but still… Can you imagine Ray Romano downing a Miltown after a bad day?
Maude was responsible for getting weed to get herself and her friends busted but Walter confiscates her $20 bag and she ends up going to the police station with a bag of oregano. The sergeant at the desk figures that out and won’t arrest anyone for that. He also complains of exhaustion and so Maude rummages in her purse and helpfully hands him a Dexamil.
I was sure the punch line would be that she would get arrested for distributing another kind of controlled substance. Nope. Blablabla, Maude and the women end up going home, free, and after she’s gone, the cop shrugs and pops the Dexamil.
Cue the music.
MY how things have changed!
Finally, last night Tom and I wallowed in VH1 Classic’s History of Rock episodes about 1970s rock and then punk. No particular insights about that here, except to note how deep the roots of the rock of our formative years run. It just sounds, looks and feels so right to me, so personal, in a way no music from before or after does. I still belong to the Blank Generation. That doesn’t seem to change.
more on money
Sunday, June 29, 2008
So far, email on my frugality op-ed has been almost completely positive, except for the one I mentioned. I got another email from the same guy suggesting my column was less about being frugal than being envious. Well, sure. I've never made a secret that envy is my Deadly Sin of choice. I envy people with money, yup, sure do. I particularly envy people who have money they don't have to actually work for. Wow, wouldn't that be nice?
Still, I've made my choices and it's just nice to be on what feels like winning side of the economy for once.
(BTW, the fellow who emailed concerned about my state of mind commented on an "undertow" of anger in my recent blogs. I told him he flattered me--they were blatantly angry. His concern was really nice, though.)
don't you worry
I’m certainly no stranger to depression, which is a lifelong thing—it comes and goes. Sometimes it’s a BFD, sometimes it’s a low-level psychic headache. My recent pissed-off-itude certainly is a mood swing. I’ll own that but I’m not concerned because I know what it feels like to be at the bottom of the pit and this ain’t it, I promise you. (Had you checked in with me last year, I’d have had a different story.)
What I didn’t tell you is that the same week an editor called what I wrote “flat,” another editor called something else “exquisite.” But being the Charlie Brown of bloggers, I chose to focus on the former rather than the latter. (See my post about cognitive distortions.) Besides, gloating about the latter would just sound boastful. (Rather than talk about it, I just read the email over and over.)
The former also gives me more to chew on. As Ira Glass said, “Every story strives to be mediocre.” Taking criticism seriously is the first step on the road from mediocrity. If it’s valid criticism, that is, and one of a writer's jobs is to sort out which criticism to take to heart and which to dismiss.
I promise you, I am not kicking the dog or putting my head in the oven. Life is actually going pretty well, for the most part. So thank you for your concern but I’m fine. Really.
vote for tom!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I missed their gig at the Cavern last night but evidently, they rocked the jernt. Their ya-yas are definitely out.
on being broke
No, not really, but my op-ed in today's Dallas Morning News welcomes the rest of the world to my way of life.
So far, emails from readers have been mostly positive, with one exception, from a man who accused me of getting satisfaction from the "suffering" of others. I wrote back that he needed to define "suffering." Living within one's means isn't suffering...it's sensible, and if cutting back is that difficult then I guess I do feel sorry for you, and not because you're having to cut back but because it's so painful for you. Time for some soul-searching? Read Mary's companion column about the satisfaction to be found in frugal living. Atta girl!
Another reader, who says he and his wife also life frugally, points out that it appears those who have lived beyond their means will be getting government bailouts, as, he suspects, will the boomers who have not saved for retirement--subsidized by all taxpayers. The grasshoppers may win this round, too.
letters from readers
Friday, June 27, 2008
Among the many joys of my morning paper are the letters to the editor. While we do see many, intelligent, thought-provoking letters, nothing delights me and Tom more than the dopey ones. We're mean that way.
We still quote to each other letters we read years ago--like one from a woman who wrote at length about how they were serving snacks at her bank and there is a bank at her supermarket. "My, how things have changed," she concluded.
She wrote it, the editors ran it, we've been laughing at it since.
The last line of these letters, the wrap-up, is invariable the best part because they tend to make sweeping proclamations, quotable for years to come.
Don't just take my word for it...try this:
MEDIA DISCRIMINATION REMAINS!
Anybody out there listening?
Another reader responded to the letter by pointing out that pico de gallo is a lot healthier than BLTs.
And finally, this one has no particularly quotable last line, but it's very special.
I got yr F word, Sarah.
Then again, imagining a league of ladies breastfeeding "with gusto" is pretty amusing.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The topic on Saturday was cognitive distortions, which seems appropriate in light of my foul mood this week. Read it here. I’m sure distortions are playing into my inability to wrestle my mind back to its happy place. (That and not enough yoga. I’ve been neglectful of my practice.)
Of those listed, All or Nothing, Mental Filter and Leaping to Conclusions are probably my pet distortions—and they all lead me straight to the cesspool of shame. Which somehow eventually drags me to anger. Or maybe the shame and anger are unconnected. I’m not sure yet and I’m too busy this week to thoroughly chew it over, but I’ll think about it.
The article goes on to discuss recognizing your distortions and distracting yourself from them. Sounds like worthy work. I'll try to get around to it...
Last night I hooked up the radio and listened to SuperNanny during our walk, so Jack had an easier time of it, although his lollygagging remains incredibly annoying.
the demon chatterbox in my head
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Obsessing on all things annoying doesn’t do me any good—any more than the tape loop of “You’re Still The One” going round and round and round and round and round and round in my head this morning does. (Thanks a lot, Tom.)
The two must be related, a sort of OCD, and both are troubling—although my inability to divert my mind from negatives is certainly more harmful.
Don’t suggest any happyface crap like counting my blessings. I find that as ineffective as trying to hum a different tune. I know what my blessings are and they’re great but they don’t make life’s irritations vanish. They are an “and” not a “but.” I have all this AND that pisses me off. If I try humming a different tune, it invariably turns into “Ebony and Ivory” and then I just have another problem.
The trouble with the good things is that they provide nothing, really, to chew on. With the negatives, I can have all kinds of heated conversations in my head. I’ve told people off a thousand times and ways in my head. Sometimes out loud, if I’m not careful, as I drive or walk the dog.
But with the good things, you think of them, give them a nod, and then what? OK, maybe if I tried to think of every single little tiny itty bitty good thing in my life it would keep my mind busy for the duration of a walk … would that be as entertaining as kicking a little imaginary ass?
I do sometimes chew on writing problems as I walk—I plant the question in my mind and try to stay focused on it. This requires a lot of discipline because when I’m feeling as I am this week, negative thinking is my default mode. The effort to avoid it is so great, letting my mind slip into an angry rut feels like falling into a featherbed. An uncomfortable featherbed.
I’m OK when I’m busy. I have lots to do today and that will keep the angry voices in my head distracted. But pity poor Jack when it’s walk o’clock and my chattering demons take over.
Labels: personal growth
angry writer walking
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Without an iPod or something blathering in my ears, my mind is free to gnaw on things and most of the time, those are not good things. Sadly, when I let my mind wander at will, it invariably heads straight for the things that piss me off me and once there, hunkers down.
Poor Jack—he tends to get slow and stubborn at the end of the walk, just as I’m reaching a frenzy of fury at the world. I try to be sympathetic and slow down, but then he slows down, lagging far behind me, always keeping tension on the leash that infuriates me. I invariably end up yanking and scolding and cussing. Tom insists Jack gets plodding because of the heat but I don’t think so. If that were the case, then he’d keep up when I slow down to a crawl. No, I think it’s some kind of weird power struggle. Other dogs pull on the leash ahead. My cockamamie critter does the opposite.
I’m struggling with foul temper this week. Perhaps it’s the onset of summer. It’s hot hot hot here and I’m not yet acclimated.
During last night’s walk I got all churned up about work. While I have enough to keep me busy, the stuff I care about most just isn’t working out. I’m thinking very seriously about retiring my travel column because it’s just not selling enough to make it worthwhile. Editors tell me they love to read it when it arrives (via my syndicate), but they don’t buy it and give their readers the same pleasure. The two papers that theoretically run it have not in months. I get lots of response from readers when the column runs—shouldn’t that count for something?
Essays in general are a heartbreak. Recently, an editor told me something I’d submitted is “flat.” That is absolutely gnawing a hole through my brain. A writer friend who helped me fine-tune the essay vehemently disagrees. I don’t know who to believe or what to do. It’s all so subjective and discouraging and there are no answers to any of my questions. (If I were walking Jack right now, I’d be striding at an angry pace of 10 miles an hour and he’d be dragging at the end of full length of the leash and my arm, which would be straight back behind me.)
I will soon have something in a major national publication—but I didn’t get paid for it. You know—budgets and staff cuts and blablabla, the editor told me. Yeah, I know, but it makes me angry anyway.
I believe I’m good at what I do, readers respond to what I write, but the gatekeepers to the public don’t help.
I’m an angry writer. I’m angry at my editors and angry at the industry and angry at myself and COME ON JACK! HURRY UP! YOU’RE DRIVING ME FUCKING CRAZY!
Monday, June 23, 2008
I slept through this pre-sunrise scene, but Tom saw Jack bound off into the woods, heard the panicked squeals wind down to death whimpers, then found the critter, a young raccoon, and cleared it away.
Jack is an animal.
As natural as this is, it’s nevertheless disturbing. I like to believe that Jack is all blow and no go—that he likes chasing squirrels but wouldn’t know what to do with one if he got it. (I’m trying not to think about cats.) Evidently, he knows exactly what to do and he seems to have killed for killing’s sake, since he didn’t eat the coon.
Raccoons are rough customers and we are glad that Jack got the better of it rather than vice versa. I once saw a cat that mixed it up with a coon and it was not pretty, nor did it ultimately survive. So I suppose this is less disturbing than the day one of our other dogs (RIP, Homer) ate a baby bunny. Poor Tom saw that, too. He called me to report it and sounded really shaken. It was the last time we ever saw any rabbits on the property—and we used to have lots.
The other day on a walk, Jack and I were ambushed by a couple of killer Chihuahuas on the loose. To his credit, Jack kept cool, although his ears signaled all kinds of discomfort and irritation. Those yappy little bastards were hardly put off by my ultrasonic dog trainer. Their yips and yaps were pretty ultrasonic themselves. But this little zapper is the greatest for making sure loose dogs keep their distance. I even give Jack a quick zap now and then, when he gets aggressive towards dogs in their yards. He does not like it one bit and it seems to be training him out of his fence aggression.
At any rate, I hope this morning's carnage doesn’t turn Jack all bloodthirsty. We have friends who keep chickens and when one of their dogs killed his first chicken, it changed him forever--unhinged him a little. Now all he wants to do is kill more chickens and they have to keep him in a dog run most of the time, whereas he used to the run of the property.
If the raccoons are smart, they've moved out of our yard.
Jack was very proud of himself, of course.
the chain match continues
Sunday, June 22, 2008
"My shorts are more ridiculous!"
"NO! My shorts are more ridiculous!"
What's at stake? The winner gets to keep his "Men's Under Armour Heatgear Blitz Compression Top."
a laff instead
Friday, June 20, 2008
can love be defined?
A friend and I have been discussing love—what is it? Can it be defined? Should it be?
I’m a fan of M. Scott Peck’s iconic self-help book The Road Less Traveled in which he defines love as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s or another’s spiritual growth.”
I always liked that, although my definition of “spiritual” may not be the same as yours. But I do believe love means helping the other person grow—in the direction he or she chooses. That’s pretty key. “Helping” your loved one grow in ways you choose is not love, it’s control. And I like that Peck’s definition of love requires some sort of action, some effort. To my mind, love without action is an empty word--even if sometimes that action means walking away. (If you love something, let it go and blah blah blah.)
My friend likes Robert Sternberg’s theory of three types of love: romantic, companionate and commitment. That also makes sense to me, and the two definitions aren’t mutually exclusive.
But she also questioned whether defining love at all is wise, since it invites judging other people’s relationships. Who are we to say whether another couple is loving or not when we don’t and can’t live in their hearts, minds or relationships? Good point—we can’t know what makes someone else’s relationship work (or not work, for that matter) and to condemn something we don’t understand is just bigotry. And stupidity.
But I would argue that there is benefit to guidelines on what love is and isn’t because a lot of people seem to get confused. Women in abusive relationships sometimes believe their menfolk are driven to abuse because of deep love. Some people confuse sexual desire for love. Some people think that love is static--that once it is declared it need not be tended. Some people think love=drama. (I thank pop culture for that, since companionate love is rarely depicted, except occasionally in country music.) That would probably be my love vice.
But I’m pretty careful with the word “love,” as I am with the word “friend.” I don’t slap it on any old attraction until I’ve thoroughly parsed it.
Tom and I love each other and, I’m sure he would agree, it’s not always easy-cheesy. It’s not just a matter of deciding it, declaring it and getting on with our lives. Sometimes love requires conflict. Sometimes it requires sacrifice. Sometimes it requires boundaries. Sometimes it requires restraint. Sometimes it requires courage. Sometimes it requires saying, “I’m sorry.” (Take that, Ali McGraw.) All of which require effort.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I am always grateful to receive critique from friends and editors that will help move my writing to a higher level.
Which is not to say it’s “fun,” exactly.
I have received two critiques on two different projects since last night. Both are smart, insightful and useful.
Not “ouch” they were poorly expressed or “ouch” I disagree or even “ouch” I don’t have the ego for this. Just “ouch” I hate confronting my deficiencies, even en route to making amends.
Before I can even fully process what needs to be done to fix the projects, I have to overcome shame for not being perfect first time out. I can accept faults and foibles in all aspects of myself but writing. In some demented, deluded way I expect nothing but brilliance when it comes to expressing ideas. Anything less is like getting caught with my pants down.
That’s not rational. It just is.
Actually, any feedback is painful for me. I received an e-mail the other day from a friend reading a novel in progress for me. She said, "I'm about a third of the way through what you sent me -- and really like it."
I heard, "I can barely drag my way through this and I'm kind of embarrassed for you."
Getting even positive feedback can be a sick game of telephone for the writer's ego, especially when it comes to a very personal project.
Once I process both the positive and negative critiques, I have to get past hating the amount of work involved in fixing the problems. I’m a lazy writer and although I know writing is rewriting, I’d much rather get it perfect the first time and move on. (Haha.) I have word games to play and emails to answer. I don’t have time for all this serious writing business.
Finally and most difficult of all, I have to figure out how to fix the problems. Fixing a broken character or wandering essay is so much more difficult than fixing a misspelled word or clumsy sentence. (Duh, Sophie. Ya think?)
What to do, what to do? Do I wait for inspiration? Do I actively seek inspiration? Do I just plunge in and start tinkering?
Maybe I should just play a few rounds of Word Challenge and worry about it later.
dillard's is silly but neimans is creepy
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Turn the page and…. (cue music from Psycho shower scene)
My god! This poor child! Feed her! Get her out of those Devil Shoes! For god’s sake, at least let her grow up a few years before you put her through this. Look at this sweet little girl face.
Yeah, yeah. Fashionistas are rolling their eyes at me—so gauche to complain about skinny underage models. But this photo gives me the willies.
Here, a young Dallas model discusses her bout with eating disorders. I wanted to cry and throw up reading that one casting director for Paris fashion week told her, "You're turning into a woman, and your body is changing. You need to learn to control that."
I know women are supposed to be inspired to shop by imagining they look younger, slimmer and sexier than they are, but this can go too far. Even when fashion photos aren’t quite as disturbing as this one, I’m not dumb enough to imagine I’ll ever look like a 14-year-old dressed as a grown up. I wouldn’t want to, anyway.
I had a similar thought while working out the other day to a Crunch DVD. All those pretty, perky and extremely buff women were supposed to inspire me but that was not the effect they had. I wished for someone I could relate to, someone who was a little bit older, a little bit curvier, a little bit imperfect but fit. I wasn’t discouraged by the sight of all those sexy sixpacks, but with them on the TV screen, my reflection in the mirror was kind of depressing. One reason Richard Simmons workouts are so much fun is because he has people of all sizes Sweatin' to the Oldies. To me, that’s much more inspiring than a chorus line of women who clearly dedicate their lives to their buns and abs. They only makes me feel that what I can do is not enough and never will be.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
A moment of respect for the sexiest legs in the movies. RIP, Cyd Charisse.
(And Iggy remembers what I think of Gene Kelly, I'm sure.)
Our night walks are completely different from our daytime walks. I needed distraction during the day. I went from listening to music to NPR to Who Wants to Be A Millionaire (my little radio gets TV as well—I love that) to Podcasts, yet I still found myself dreading the daily slog. Is it any wonder? I’ve been walking around this same neighborhood for 15 years.
But walking after dark is entirely different. No distraction is necessary. The one time I tried hooking up to headphones, I disliked the noise and chatter. Few cars pass and nobody is mowing or blowing or hedge trimming. No kids are yelling and horsing around on their way home from school and I don’t have to worry about anyone teasing Jack, as they sometimes do, or asking to meet him, as they often do, forcing me to sadly explain his bad manners.
Nighttime noises are soothing. The hiss of sprinklers. The buzz of cicadas. Dogs bark but they seem somehow muffled and distant. Trees rustle in the breeze, when there is one. Last night the moon was big and bright—not full but nearly so. We pass few other people, although we did pass a woman a couple of nights ago.
“I can’t see you,” she said, her teeth flashing white in the last of evening’s light.
I laughed. “I can’t see you either,” I said, and we went on our way until she jogged by me again ten minutes later, a benevolent shadow. “Have a good evening,” she said as she passed.
Some evenings we get out early enough to catch the last of the sunset. In that case, we walk streets to the west of home, at the top of our hilly neighborhood, along a school playing field, where we can appreciate the enormity of the Texas sky. The other night, for the first time, I noticed a church steeple in the distance silhouetted against the dusk.
Jack and I are seeing the neighborhood in a whole different light.
the business bib
Monday, June 16, 2008
Thanks to the Dallas Morning News shopping blog for implanting these disturbing images in my brain.
You must see the Business Bib for yourself. And be sure to view the Flickr slideshow.
And, the DMN points out, they are sold out.
threats lurk everywhere (and other Monday amusements)
These boardies are quick drying and are Velcro-free for extra comfort.
• 100% Polyester Twill
• No Velcro fly
• Inside waistband may imply offensive slogan
I rarely read B.C. because of it’s religious proselytizing (this word is difficult to spell and equally difficult to look up) but today's is funny.
So was today’s Mother Goose and Grimm (that’s June 16, if you’re late to this blog).
I got a shout out in my friend Tom Swick’s blog today, because a told a sad tale of journalist abuse (in the comments).
New workout DVD reviews up on Suit Up and Show Up. Checkitout, OK?
Friday, June 13, 2008
But first, let’s revisit a shopping trip past.
If you’ve been with me a while, you may remember The Shoes.
The golden shoes. The shoes for which the angels sang.
Alas, alas. Turns out they are not the shoes from the heavens, they are the devil’s work.
They hurt. Oh lawdy, they hurt. They dig into the backs of my heels and rip them raw. I have tried taping up my heels but they just rub the tape off and chew me up. I wore them for the second time today and went to the dentist, to lunch, to the supermarket. I was hobbling by the time I got home. Tragedy comes in so many forms. This is one. Oh, deceitful shoes, all your promises broken.
Speaking of pain, I’ve been shopping for a bathing suit, too. That’s time consuming because my ego can only stand about eight bathing suits per shopping trip. But amazingly, after trying on only about a dozen suits, I found one for the ages at Marshall’s, of all places. For $24.99. I never look for suits at Marshall’s-—I tend to spend real money on my suits--but I’ve been feeling hopeful and damned if I didn’t score on a sassy black tankini. It had its first outing last week and the consensus was that I have found a magical bathing suit. I have been running to Marshall’s all over town, now, looking for another so that I may have this bathing suit for the ages. So far no good but I have a few more Marshall's to go. (BTW, Lara tells me Kohl's has cute suits, too.)
I need new sandals, too, but I was a dope not to buy them two weeks ago, when Marshall’s and DSW were full of ‘em. Now the pickings are very slim. What could have been an easy flash of the credit card now is a quest. I mean, there are lots of sandals out there but I have needs and desires that must be fulfilled and the detritus on the shelves just doesn’t have what it takes.
By the way, is there any place more revolting than the Ross Dress for Less shoe department? Total chaos. I am convinced their associates are hired for their havoc-wreaking talents and that every night after the store closes, instead of organizing the shoe racks, they assiduously put the size 5s among the 8s, strew sandals everywhere and mismatch the athletic shoes. I also suspect the company keeps screaming babies on the payroll because there’s always at least one. Every time I go into Ross I swear never to return but I always drift back.
I also need a purse. (Yes, Tom, I know. But purses go out of style, too.) I’m the opposite of fashion-forward because it takes a while before my eyes adjust to new silhouettes and I have finally come to understand that my cute little purses just don’t look right anymore. So I’m looking at big purses, even though I always feel silly with a big purse because all that’s ever in it is a wallet, a phone, a brush and a lipstick, all rattling around the bottom. I find myself apologizing to security guards who peek in and then look at me as if I’m loony.
Here's a tip: I was in Sears the other day looking for something hardware-like and discovered that they have a lot of cute cheap purses.
Y’all have a great weekend, hear? And look for me at Marshall’s.
P.S. Black and Blue at the Barley House tonight. Dude.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Dad, would you prefer dull (far left), butt-ugly (far right) or elastic-waist shorts? (Middle photo, far left. Or perhaps slightly too-short shorts. I have no particular gripes about the third pair of shorts but they need to keep better company.) Which says "I love you" to you?
For rich dad we have bling. Note the quote under the little photo of father and son. Presumably the little boy is supposed to have said that but do the copywriters know what the idiom "you wind me up" means? So are we celebrating dad's magic ability to wind his kids up? Yeah, OK. Tasteless bling should do the trick.
And finally, I'm not sure what annoys me about this ad--too bad my scanner is too small for full page ads--but it does. Please fill in your own mocks.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Not in the computer sense, although I do a lot of that, too. But I’ve been pinging people.
Pinging is a great concept I learned a year or so ago from the book Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.
I don’t have the energy or will for the level of networking this book recommends, but the idea of pinging resonated with me (ping! ping! ping!) and now, every time my work and energy get soggy, I crank up the pinging.
Pinging is just a little poke at people to remind them you’re there and you care. I’m a pretty regular pinger in general. Granted, I tend to be a virtual pinger—I’m not big on the chatty phone call, so sue me. But if I know you and like you and come across an article or idea I think you’d like, I’ll send it along. I’ll sometimes go to my favorite e-card Web site and send a card that makes me laugh with the hope that it will make you laugh, too. If I come across an article by a writer I know, I stick it in an envelope and send it to him or her. I use this blog to ping. If I mention friends, I let them know (because I make no assumptions about who does or “should” read this). And I like to comment on friends’ blogs. Ping! It’s networking of a sort, but it’s a lot more fun than the word “networking” sounds.
I’ve been underemployed recently so I started pinging with a purpose. Queries are a form of pinging. Even if I don’t have specific ideas, I’ve been dropping notes to editors I’ve worked with in the past to say “hi.” I’ve done a lot of lunch recently. Maybe a lunch leads to work, maybe to ideas for articles, maybe just to a solidified relationship. All good things.
Now I find myself with a nice little pile of work. None of it is particularly sexy, but the checks will turn me on. I’ve got a passel of new ideas I need to package and start pitching. I feel reconnected to my career. And all it took was a little pinging.
Ping, ping, PING!
to hell with it
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I highly recommend Google Reader for all your blog needs. Or you can subscribe to my blog updates on my MySpace page.
this n that tuesday
Hm…interesting concept. I’m trying to decide how I feel about this. Advertisers will like it since it will deliver their ads into more hands. And that may keep the the dinosaur lumbering along a little longer. I'm all for that.
Funny--I can’t imagine my newspaper taking any less time to read in the morning than it already does, although I do have the benefit of spending days at my computer, keeping up with news online, so I can breeze through much of it. A lot of people don’t have that luxury. (I spoke to a busy working single mom recently who, when I mentioned the earthquake in China, said, “There was an earthquake in China?”)
Still, I’m always slightly irked at the benefits showered on new customers/non customers by companies. You know, the old open a bank account, get a free toaster thing. No interest introductory rates on credit cards.
At best, existing customers can opt-in to be barraged by offers of nominal discounts from various “partners.” (I don’t consider 10% off to be anything but a come-on) If my credit card company really wanted to show its appreciation, it would reward me with a couple of interest-free months. My newspaper—I pay $228 a year for a daily subscription--would cut me a price deal or give me access to its online archives free. My bank could toss $25 in my account for every year I stick with it. That kind of thing. Show me some love.
I’m not usually a National Review kind of girl, but this essay by Mark Steyn tickled me. Yes, I support Obama and will vote for him. No question. I think the army of malevolent Hillary supporters planning to vote for McCain are some sort of invented bogeywomen.
But I admit that I will get some small satisfaction in seeing Obama parsed with the same glee and attention that Hillary was throughout the campaign, as in Steyn’s essay.
Here is a fabulous blog post from Judith Warner (thanks Mary) that ties together Hillary and Sex in the City. Take a moment to take a look.
And finally, watch this video and tell me again how there was no sexism and misogyny in this past campaign.
Monday, June 9, 2008
What struck me as moronic about the whine is that she’s not actually complaining about boomers. She’s complaining about marketing. I was born on the tail-end of the boom but I take no responsibility for such things as art house revivals of the Rosemary's Baby, innocuous if tiresome public radio features about Valerie Solanas' shooting of Andy Warhol, and, if there's a slow week, maybe even an E! special commemorating the marriage of Jackie Kennedy to Aristotle Onassis.
Daum needs to get out of the office sometimes and stop reading so many press releases—she’s starting to confuse media hype with reality. Of course media companies are going to try to make money out of whatever they can. That’s what they do. Not my fault, chickie.
If you want to wallow in your own pop culture, watch music awards shows. I have no idea who any of those young women in trashy clothes are. Don’t know, don’t care. I don’t blame you for that.
It’s all money and marketing, Megan. As soon as Gen X's anniversaries start rolling around, you’re welcome to throw yourself parades if you want. What big important moments would you suggest we celebrate? I’m sure there is someone ready to make money off it. Actually, I can't begin to articulate how little I care about Raiders of the Lost Ark but I heard an awful lot about it recently. I believe that's your fault?
Tom and I agreed that if she’d wanted a truly compelling angle, Daum would have wondered why classic rock has become such a music juggernaut. She touched on this then veered off into dopey, unfocused griping. No radio stations, no television commercials are safe from wheezin’ geezer rock—and I say this as a wheezin’ geezer. Every time we hear a boomer hit on TV, Tom wonders why they dig so far back. To whom are they selling? We keep hearing about that precious 18-35 demographic--so what's with the Bob Dylan and Beatles?
It could be that old rockers have finally decided that they’ve made their point about integrity but you can’t eat integrity for dinner so might as well sell out and cash in. Maybe the dinosaurs are cheaper than today’s music hitmakers so the advertisers are getting while the getting's good?
It could be that these songs became entrenched at a time when we were not overwhelmed by too much music—when songs had a chance to reach large audiences instead of being quick blips in an ever-increasing barrage of blips. It’s hard for anything to be heard among the racket these days and it’s also hard for artists to mature in our increasingly hit-obsessed media industry.
It could be that radio is full of oldies because younger peeps don’t listen to the radio—they’re too busy pirating music online.
Me, I still like listening to the radio, although I find less and less new music to buy that way, so layered is it under the oldies. (And if I have to listen to Heard It Through the Grapevine one more time, there’ll be hell to pay.)
Daum’s essay had my eyes rolling so hard I almost pulled a muscle. Who’s acting self-important? You want to be center of attention? Go ahead. We’re all waiting.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
In among the pines
There is a camp we all adore
One that we have loved
And we will love forevermore...
And so on. Sigh.
But I digress.
The quote below, from the Publisher's Marketplace newsletter, made me laugh.
NY Magazine's Boris Kachka on authors at the breakfasts and lunches: "Funniest guy we saw? John 'I'm a PC' Hodgman, who at a forum at 8 a.m. Sunday managed to blow every other humorist out of the water. 'I still have a fondness for books,' said the onetime literary agent. 'Many a time I will be antiquing, and I'll say, 'What's that old-timey curio over there? What is that, a candlestick telephone, one of those old pull-chain toilets? Oh no, it's a book. I used to help make those things! I will buy it and use it to decorate my chain of casual family-dining restaurants.'"
Coupla funnies for you here and here. I can relate to them both.
So I got this gizmo the other day, a Clarisonic. It was invented by the guy who invented the Sonicare toothbrush and it’s essentially the same thing, but for the face.
I love my Clarisonic. Love it. Love. It. My face has never been so clean. Did you know the average woman spends 15 second washing her face? This thing takes a minute. It’s waterproof and rechargeable and I use it with my plain old Cetaphil.
I feel like a kid whose parents gets her to brush her teeth by buying a Little Mermaid toothbrush. My new toy is more fun than washing the old fashioned way and although I always have washed my face every night, I do it more better now.
Bad PR du jour
Got an email today.
The subject line: Even MORE exciting NEWS for you!
The message: You are going to be WOWed to put this in your news publication!
The news: I have no idea. It’s in an attachment that I’m not going to open. Much as we could all use a little WOWing, I don’t open unsolicited attachments to keep my computer safe and also as a matter of principal. Everyone should know better. I don’t reward stupidity.
I just finished reading my friend Karen Harrington's book, Janeology. Karen is a wonderful writer and this book, tracing the lineage of a mother who murders one of her children, raises compelling questions about nature vs. nurture. Was her act inevitable?
Check out Karen's blog. Wish I'd entered her 10-word story contest, but I was too busy writing haiku comments on Jenna's blog. It's a wonder I have time to spend a whole minute washing my face...
I posted a new DVD review on Suit up and Show Up. Show it some love, give it a click. I haven't been doing new DVDs recently because I am giving it all to Tamilee. Hurts so good.
I've had an exceedingly social couple of weeks. I look forward to holing up at home with my sewing this weekend. Except for a couple of parties tomorrow night. Would somebody please suggest some cocktail chatter for me? I'm plum out...
Thursday, June 5, 2008
My friend Nancy sent me this fabulous Salon.com essay by Joan Walsh about what Obama must do to win over Hillary's constituency--especially women. Especially middle-aged women, who were brutalized by this campaign.
I've been stunned by the extent to which trashing Clinton supporters as washed up old white women is acceptable,Walsh writes. A writer whose work I respect submitted a piece addressed to "old white feminists," telling them to get out of Obama's way. I've found my own writing often dismissed not on its merits (or lack thereof) but because as a woman who will turn 50 in September, I'm supposed to be Clinton's demographic. Salon's letters pages, as well as the comments sections around the blogosphere, are studded with dismissive, derisive references to bitter old white women.
I'm all verklempt.
seeking middle ground
Macy's perfume ad--The message: I am a pain in the ass (times three) at the very least, and possibly insane. Don't have sex, don't want it. Prefer hanging around gay men.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
My story about the ranch where I spent my birthday. I love this place.
The Wildcatter Ranch: Hill Country without the crowds
The Texas hills range beyond the increasingly congested and action-packed triangle of Austin, San Antonio and Fredericksburg. While the popular epicenter gets all the attention, beyond that bustling region, the hills relax into broad tranquil vistas perfect for a weekend of unwinding.
The Wildcatter Ranch & Resort sits on 1,500 acres in Graham, Texas, about 100 miles northwest of Fort Worth—an area that local residents are calling the North Texas Hill County. Here the land studded with mesquite, oak and juniper begins stretching out to plains and the Brazos River is a grand golden ribbon winding through loosely laid hills.
The land on which the Wildcatter sits was first owned by Colonel E.S. Graham, founder of the namesake town, and now belongs to two of his great-grandchildren: Glenn Street and his sister Anne Street Skipper, who has a large home on the property with her husband, Broadway producer Mike Skipper--whose most recent project, In The Heights, was just nominated for 13 Tony awards.
Opened in 2005, the family-owned Wildcatter is high-end romantic getaway, with 12 suites, an infinity pool and hot tub overlooking Texas’ infinite horizon, and a lively steakhouse and bar. The Wildcatter also is a family-friendly resort, with activities such as horseback riding on miles of trails, ATV tours, canoeing on placid Connor Creek, skeet shooting, archery and a hand-operated mechanical bull named Mighty Buckey. (Because he’s hand-operated, he’s not as rambunctious as the mechanical bull famously featured in the movie Urban Cowboy.)
The swath of North Texas in which the Wildcatter sits is steeped in history. The iconic Goodnight-Loving Trail started about 20 miles from the ranch and some of Oliver Loving’s descendants still live in the area.(Representing the other side of the equation, the resort keeps a resident herd of longhorns, including Big Boy, who has the third largest spread—horn length—in Texas.) The Elm Creek Raid of 1864, in which Comanche killed 12 people, kidnapped women and children and stole 10,000 head of cattle occurred nearby. “The Searchers,” starring John Wayne, was based on this raid.
Keeping with the area’s rich history, each suite at the Wildcatter is themed to a significant person, place or event and decorated in pretty, sturdy and comfortable Western style, with locally made furniture and historic photographs. You can stay in the unromantically named Cattle Raisers Association Room, (the organization’s accomplishments include eradicating screw worm in the Southwest and promoting cattle-raising across Texas), the Brazos Indian Reservation room, the Warren Wagon Train room or the Marlow Brothers room. (“The Sons of Katie Elder,” another John Wayne films was based on the Marlow Brothers’ story. You can borrow the film, or other classic Westerns, from the ranch library to watch in your room.)
Many of the suites sleep four people and all open out to a long back porch, properly equipped with rocking chairs and the aforementioned endless horizon.
An expansion scheduled to open in October will add more hotel rooms and 10,000 square feet of conference space. The Wildcatter already offers “Signature Series Workshops” in native plants and Texas-style home décor, and it can accommodate team building activities for small groups. (Consider it during fall branding, suggests Anne Skipper. “Just getting the calves separated from their mamas can be more challenging than a ropes course,” she says.)
Nearby, downtown Graham is an untaxing couple of hours should you decide to tear yourself away from the Wildcatter’s tranquility. The town wears its history modestly. It has the nation’s largest town square, although still lacking much of the ye olde teddy bears bustle of many Texas town squares.
Alongside the new Young County courthouse, which is a good-looking circa 1932 limestone Moderne-style limestone monolith, stands an old stone arch, the remains of the 1884 courthouse. Across from that, the Old Post Office Museum and Art Center has changing exhibits. You also can tour the restored buildings of Fort Belknap, founded 1851 and abandoned in 1857.
For nightlife, however, head back to the Wildcatter, where resort guests, weekenders with homes at nearby Possum Kingdom, and locals gather at the Blowout Saloon and Wildcatter Steakhouse. The evening begins with a daily happy hour (membership to the private club is $5 a year), then move to the dining room. Chef Bob Bratcher cuts his own steaks and makes his own rubs and sauces, and start the evening’s indulgence with “Texas Toothpicks”—fried jalapeno and onion strips. A local band plays on the porch every Thursday night, happy hour to close, and on Fridays when the resort is full, and two-stepping is encouraged. (Or whatever kind of dancing you can manage—visiting dudes have been known to improvise.)
The Wildcatter Ranch is a hill country getaway close to home (if home is the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex) and its hills are lovely too. And not as crowded.
Wildcatter Ranch, 6062 Hwy. 16 South, Graham, TX 76450; 940-549-3500; 888 GO2WCRR (888 462 9277); www.wildcatterranch.com Rates are $239 per night Sunday-Thursday, $399 Friday and $369 Saturday. Activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, archery, skeet shooting and ATV tours are available at an extra charge.
The ranch also offers “Signature Series Workshops,” including a workshop on Designing the Texas Home September 10-11. For more information or reservations for the limited-space workshops, call 940-549-3500 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Steakhouse is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday for dinner and Sunday for lunch from 11-2. Other times, it is open to resort guests only, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
watch your language, assholes
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Some cherce bits:
WASHINGTON - Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois sealed the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, a historic step toward his once-improbable goal of becoming the nation's first black president. A defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton maneuvered for the vice presidential spot on his fall ticket.
Way to patronize...And as the story goes on to explain, she said she was open to being on the ticket as VP. How is that maneuvering? The language here paints Hillary as both pathetic and Machiavellian.
Obama, a first-term Illinois senator who was virtually unknown on the national stage four years ago, defeated Clinton, the former first lady and one-time campaign front-runner, in a 17-month marathon for the Democratic nomination.
AND TWO-TERM SENATOR! The sexism that affected Hillary's campaign is not blatant but reveals itself in this sort of insidious language that ignores her concrete accomplishments to present her merely an appendage to a man.
Obama drew strength from blacks, and from the younger, more liberal and wealthier voters in many states. Clinton was preferred by older, more downscale voters, and women, of course.
Of course. Dumb bitches.
Why not "Obama drew strengths from blacks, of course...."?
Blablablablablabla...until we reach PARAGRAPH 20:
With her husband's two White House terms as a backdrop, Clinton campaigned for months as the candidate of experience, a former first lady and second-term senator ready to be commander in chief.
Ah, there it is, the FIRST mention of her current office. More than halfway into the article and only inserted in this paragraph after yet another mention of the fact that she was first lady.
As the strongest female presidential candidate in history, Clinton drew large, enthusiastic audiences. Yet Obama's were bigger.
This story was written by a committee of 87 writers, I believe. They should all get their asses solidly kicked. This is the kind of subtle and destructive use of language that sinks any pretension of balance in the media. It is odious because of its subtlety--it affects casual readers on a subliminal level.
got what it takes?
What does it take to work for oneself?
First, it takes a certain amount of self-delusion. When I went freelance in the mid 1990s, I sincerely believed that the world was waiting for my words (alliteration and all). Had I known how difficult it would be to persuade people to buy them, I might not have waved bye-bye to my job so gleefully. Well, actually, that’s a lie. I would have. I was very unhappy in my last job and having spent most of my working life self-employed, I couldn’t wait to regain control of my time. But stepping out into the world of freelancing was a rude awakening. Huh—all those newspaper editors who loved my stories when they got them free on the Knight-Ridder wire were somewhat less anxious to run them when they had to pay for them. I couldn’t even get responses from some I knew personally. Huh. Go figger. (How sympathetic am I now to those editors, as they lose their jobs and start freelancing? Not terribly. Welcome to my world. Sink or swim.)
Self employment takes discipline. Mine ebbs and flows. Sometimes I can crank out queries and stories like a little Sophie machine, sometimes I play a lot of Scrabbulous while awash in guilt and shame. Sometimes I need an extreme self-ass kicking to get back on track.
Self employment requires tolerance for guilt and shame. When your workday is not proscribed by set hours and a reliable paycheck, you never feel like you’re doing enough. No matter how much I accomplish in a day, I could do more. No matter how much I earn, it should be more. No matter how many bylines I get, they’re in the wrong magazines. Guilt and shame are my co-workers. I embrace them.
Self employment requires tolerance for solitude. If your business, like mine, doesn’t have employees, you spend a lot of time alone. That’s why God made the Internet. The virtual world is my water cooler. I also try to plan at least one lunch date a week to make sure I don’t go all Red Rum.
Self employment requires creative money management skills. It’s one thing to manage your money with a paycheck, it’s something else altogether to manage it when you don’t know from month to month what will be coming in. In tight times, I go into spending lockdown and all nonessential spending stops. When money is coming in, I make sure to handle the important stuff, like going to the dentist.
Self employment requires a network of sympathetic souls. Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen except other freelance writers. Ours is a particular circle of heaven and hell combined. When our work goes well, little is more satisfying. When it doesn’t, it feels like very personal failure. The weight of rejection gets unbearably heavy from time to time.
And it’s a vicious circle for us—the more we need work the more we have to pitch, the more we pitch the more we open ourselves up for rejection, the more rejection we get the harder it is to be motivated, the less motivated we are, the less work we have. And round and round and round.
I’m in a state of mega burn-out right now. I’m tired, discouraged, broke and feeling unloved. So after I get this post up, I’m calling up a friend in the same business as I who has kindly volunteered to be a sympathetic, empathetic ear. Dollars to donuts (mmm, donuts would help too) I’ll feel better after talking to her. Friends can take the "self" out of self-employment.
Monday, June 2, 2008
I read the whole thing, long as it is, and found it compelling because I blog, because I am conflicted about the nasty blogs (like Jezebel, which is published by the Gawker people) and because I am slightly repelled by the TMI in some blogs.
Honestly—y’all don’t know from TMI here. Or if you do think you get TMI here, then you’re exceedingly sensitive. I used to subscribe to one MySpace blog—consistently the most popular on the site—that I finally unsubscribed to after a discussion of the blogger's most private of private bits. Yeah, that's TMI for me. As I promised when I launched this blog: You will never hear about my sex life or private bits here. I'm featureless as Barbie as far as you're concerned.
Part of Gould’s story involved blogging about her boyfriend, who took offense at one of her posts. She argued freedom of expression and he gave in, but the relationship didn't last.
Tom knows that if I plan to discuss him in any way that might risk his privacy or dignity, I'll run the post by him for approval. (Jack, however, has to live with whatever I feel like writing about him.) I don't think he's ever refused to let me write something and if he ever does, I'll respect that. I play fast and loose with my own privacy but with no one else's. Except Jack. But he gave up his privacy the first time he licked his ass in public. (Hm, right after I finished typing that sentence, he got up and left the room. Maybe I underestimated his sensitivity.)
Anyway, Gould’s NYT article got a large and vitriolic response. Among the 1,200-plus comments:
stop polluting ,find another job
What a sorry little cyberworld you chose to live in. Do you have a real life as well? or is this all you have? You are just a stupid little girl. Go watch the sun set and grow up!
I expect more from the New York Times. This article was nothing more than the ramblings of a moronic juvenile who calls herself a writer. I hope that the New York Times is not paying her for this piece. I long for the days when writers were people who had something to say.
Wow. People took all that time to read what she had to say, go online, and insult her. Shouldn’t they be outside watching the sun set or something?
As with so many other aspects of modern life, we seem to be deeply conflicted about blogging. I’m supposed to feel a little bit ashamed of this hobby. I’m a little sheepish when I mention it to people.
Yet millions of people read blogs and, although tech review blogs top most lists, snotty and TMI blogs tend to be very widely read. (What was Sex and the City but a pre-blogging blog?)
People enjoy voyeurism but when they feel shame about that, they lash out at the exhibitionist instead of kicking their own curious asses.
When I was at the newspaper, my personal essays elicited far greater response than any of my straight features stories. Although Paula LaRoque (hisssssssssssssss) never missed an opportunity to chastise me for using self-referential pronouns, readers seemed to enjoy those articles. What a shocker it was for me when I went freelance and editors started specifically requesting first-person from me. You mean … somebody really does care about me? But LaRoque told me again and again that NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK!
And now, personal blogging is called a form of self-medication in research discussed in this Scientific American article
This is interesting but not surprising. Now-classic research by psychologist James Pennebaker at UT found that student who wrote on personal topics, even if no one ever reads what they wrote, got sick less frequently than control groups. In other words, self-disclosure is good for you.
However, the term "self-medicating" seems patronizing in this context. Is anything pleasurable to be considered self-medication? I don’t really feel like I’m medicating anything. I’m just having fun and doing what I do. Or maybe I have hydergraphia, which the article defines as “an uncontrollable urge to write.” Sure, let’s pathologize a perfectly respectable passion.
In her essay, Emily Gould was hard on herself for the degree to which she exposed herself to the world. To some extent, her excessive self-disclosure may have been a function of her youth. In your 20s, one tends to believe one’s every thought worthy of broadcast. Blogging and other forms of online disclosure are just the newest form of youthful indiscretion.
But that so many people read Gould's essay and then beat her up for it is confusing.
Maybe it’s not those of us who enjoy publicly expressing our thoughts who need a life. Maybe the people who really need to get out more are the ones who waste energy hating us.
P.S. Read Gould's thoughtful responses to her readers questions and criticisms.
it could be true
Sunday, June 1, 2008
It's not easy being Jack. Today, we will drug him so that we can brush him and wash him. I can't tell you how much I loathe having to dope him up but it's our only hope of getting the job done.
It's not easy being Jack.
fire that editor!
More than 13,000 expected to lace up to support breast cancer
Must be a breakaway insurgent group.
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