Thursday, August 28, 2008

The democratic process...

All done *...

* Actually a rare Siberian horse, but the donkeys in the petting zoo wouldn't turn around for a good picture. You get the idea.

Coming up...

3 days of sloth - happy Labor Day!

Leaving? So soon?

Leaving a historic event a day early is a bit like skipping out of a wedding before the vows, or ducking out of a funeral before the "ashes to ashes" part.

Not only that, cutting one's stay short means missing out on a lot of good Denver attractions:

10. A beer at the Cheeky Monk
9. Real Mexican food on Federal Boulevard
8. Browsing the shelves of the incomparable Tattered Cover
7. Vinyl, CDs and more at Wax Trax
6. The "Petticoat Brunch" at the Bump 'n' Grind cafe
5. A sunny walk around Washington Park
4. Jazz and blues at El Chapultepec
3. Punk at the Lion's Lair
2. Fine cinema, literature, etc., at Kitty's
1. Fine dining at Casa Bonita (just kidding...don't take your stomach there!)

And at Mile High, some guy's giving a speech tonight, I hear.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Delaware represents

Why should one support Joe Biden for VP ... his intelligence, integrity, experience, dry wit, knowledge of world affairs...

...or because he's got part of a beach named after him?


Growing up, my family would regularly visit relatives in Wilmington. I have fond memories of quaint brick houses, tax-free shopping, scrapple, Christmas visits to Winterthur, a WaWa on every corner...

Take a break from the DNC coverage (after he's done talking, of course) to check out Mr. Biden's lovely, underrated state.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No kids, no respect

As adorable as Obama’s little girls are, last night’s speech - and the media climate in general - makes me wonder:

Would a candidate without children ever have a chance at the presidency?

On one hand, we’re not facing a huge population dearth as a planet. And many people are either not inclined to raise a new human being for the next 18 years or medically not able to conceive (or scared away from IVF from watching too many episodes of “Jon and Kate Plus Eight”). So, no problem, right?

On the other hand…

Think about how many times a celebrity profile has highlighted the fact someone’s “a good dad,” “lives for their kids” or “embraces the most important role of all: Mom.” (Because commitments to other family members, friends or philanthropic efforts just aren’t as valid.)

Think about how often campaign rhetoric reference “working families” or, that classic, “family values.” (Because you can’t work hard or have solid values as just an individual.)

Think about how often you hear the phrase “responsible family man” or “responsible parent.” (Because responsibility can’t possibly be demonstrated through other means, such as owning a business, earning a degree or being active in the community. And one NEVER hears of irresponsible behavior by parents.)

Think about how the “ability to achieve work-life balance” usually references parenting. (Because people without kids NEVER have any other obligations nor tasks to juggle – just oodles of spare time to plop on the couch with a pint of Haagen Daas.)

Now imagine the potential reactions evoked by a childless candidate:
• He/she’s not capable of reproducing (and therefore must have medical problems or physical weakness we should worry about)
• She’s (if female) is a hard career woman without maternal instincts
• He/she is selfish
• He/she is just plain weird
• He/she can’t possibly relate to the problems of regular people, not having a personal stake in the next generation.

Look! Look! Crunchy people!

“City Council gives dogs status of ‘human companions’”

As a former Rocky Mountain resident, I’d see a headline like that and know there could be only one possible dateline: Boulder, Colorado.

Never mind that the rest of the state represents a much wide variety of people, many of them quite reasonable.

So when I saw Dana Milbank’s take on the unwashed, hairy-armpitted, tofu-eating masses huddled in Denver, I had to cringe.

And that big photo of morning yoga. (NOT the downward dog pose, by the way. Easy way to tell—no butts in the air.)

Never mind that I’ve seen more yoga studios per square foot in downtown Bethesda than in downtown Denver.

Okay, okay – I’ll give Dana Milbank his “superior East Coast power player mocking the rubes in flyover country” due. And his juxtaposition of Puma rancor against the “peace and harmony” vibe is pretty entertaining.

But he does go on to mock things that make complete sense, such as:

• Organic produce brought in from local farms
• Bicycles for getting around town
• Tote bags made out of recycled cloth (as opposed to landfill-bound plastic)
• Refillable water bottles
• Trash cans equipped with compost boxes for the leftovers

Reducing trash, consumption and dependence on foreign oil…whoa – crazy hippies and their crazy ideas!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How much can one reasonably expect from life?

The recent Salon article about a talented writer turning to a food kitchen to feed her kids got its fair share of comments at Jezebel, and was picked up by City Paper.

Most were thoughtful and empathetic. Because really, unless you're Roman Abramovich or Warren Buffet, there but the grace of God you go with a few strokes of bad luck. A few trolls, however, questioned her purchase of Brie and "sense of entitlement" for wanting to pursue a writing career (intellectually stimulating but usually not lucrative) and raise three kids.

Americans in particular are encouraged to reach for the stars, follow their dreams and demand the best. Yet often those who do (like this writer) are berated for thinking they're special and not sucking it up to accept a modest existence.

Contradictory, indeed.

So what IS too much to reasonably expect out of life (before one hits diva territory)?

- A job that pays the bills?
- A job that allows you to raise and support children?
- A job that doesn't make you want to jump off a ledge at the end of the day?
- A job that's reasonably fulfilling?
- A job that achieves transcendance at the apex of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (regardless of market demand and compensation)?

- Three meals a day?
- Three nutritious meals a day?
- The occasional treat of "gourmet food?" (brie, arugula, the usual limosine liberal suspects)?
- Gourmet food regularly in the fridge?
- Stocked fridge, regular restaurant visits and a cook who knows Atkins, Zone and slow-food cooking?

- A roof over one's head (basic shelter)?
- All that with electricity and running water, too?
- Modern conveniences (rental) in a safe neighborhood?
- Homeownership?
- Homeownership in a gated community with a great room and 4.5 baths?
- Something out of Cribs or Kimora's life of fabulosity?

- The ability to feed, clothe and shelter 1-2 kids?
- The ability to do so for as many kids as you want?
- Decent education and a room of their own for each?
- One bathroom per kid, car (used, split insurance costs) at age 16?
- New car, fully funded?
- All that, for an unlimited Brangelina tribe of kids, plus the best private schools, wardrobe, travel and activities?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

MP3 malfunction

A good personal soundtrack can make the difference between a relaxing commute and one that has you wanting to curse humanity. The only problem: sometimes headphones become detached from the playing device, making your personal soundtrack more of a shared experience.

This happened to me once while enjoying "The Very Best of Prince and the Revolution." (If "I Wanna Be Your Lover" doesn't wake you up in the morning, you have no pulse, which is something you might want to get checked out.) Everyone around me if getting my funk on in the Bethesda Metro station was somehow wrong.

Yesterday I saw this happen in Northern Virginia. Now, many words can be used to describe the Fairfax Connector; however "headbanger" and "ball" are not usually two of them. Nevertheless, streaming from the MP3 player of a polo-shirted computer guy more likely to be coding PERL than shagging groupies: "Shook Me All Night Long."

Rock on, Fairfax. Rock on.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I can't be poor - I have a master's degree

I had a master's degree. I had a job. But to feed my three children, I had to swallow my pride and go to a soup kitchen.

The first in Salon's series on life during the recession provoked thought in many, many ways. Here are 10 of the most vivid (note: 10-9 serious, 8-6 glib - in the words of Tom Cruise, 5-1 serious again):

10. $600 does indeed seem remarkably scant for child support for three children.

9. If raising kids is something the majority of Americans will do, why is decent childcare priced like a luxury? (particularly when childcare workers' earnings make teachers look like Russian oligarchs)

8. "Women and men smiled at us, asked us "How much?" and said "Tell me when," then pointed us toward the tables. Along another counter, there was coffee and tea and juice, desserts even...I could tell that whoever made the food had thought about it carefully, had tried to make it nutritious, hearty."

Now that's better service than I've had in a few higher-end restaurants.

"7. (The author's kids) didn't feel ashamed of anything. So they asked questions of everyone, wondered aloud about how the serving dishes kept the food warm, and why there were single desserts instead of the served kind, and where the bathroom was."

When it comes to basics like dinnertime, children can be remarkably chill, big-picture and free of self-referential, socioeconomic angst.

6. "A few months out of the crisis, and with a little money in my pocket, I bought a $3 wedge of brie."

Where'd she get that? Even at Rodman's, I can't find Brie for under $4.50.

5. And to believe in the system when you're at the very bottom, when you've watched the chrome and ink-black SUVs drive by while you're packing your own beater with dried beans and lentils, to believe at that point is fucking painful. You either say the system works and you've earned your place, or you concede that there is something wrong and there might not be any way to fix it.

Making up for the flippancy of item 6. (But please give those recession staples, beans and lentils, a break - what other ingredients would one use to make hearty wintertime chili?)

4. "The previous week, I had swallowed my pride and driven my old Subaru to a local food bank."

I went to something like that when I was in grad school full time, living off my savings with a mortgage to support. It was remarkably healthy - mostly randomly chosen fresh produce - and nothing's better for cooking skills than Googling "What the &*^% do I do with five plums and a bundle of green onions?"

But I always made sure to call it a food co-op, sometimes an organic food co-op if I felt particularly defensive. Never a food bank.

3. "I graduated summa cum laude from my undergraduate program, earned a spot in a top graduate writing program, where I earned a 4.05."

In other words: "I'm not supposed to be here." I thought first of an acquaintance I knew in grad school who let her car get repossessed and risked bankruptcy rather than take a service-level job she regarded as beneath her.

Then I thought of the American belief of education as innoculation against anything bad in the world. First it was the high school diploma. Then the BA. Now it's the master's degree. What kind of post-doc magic wand will the next generation need to wave?

2. "It was the most responsible decision I could have made under the circumstances. Even now, a year later, I'm still struggling to believe that last sentence."

Responsible is good. That this decision - to use available resources to feed her kids - was filled with the shame usually reserved for deep, dark family secrets on soap operas: not so good.

1. "Even Chloe's sullenness was better than what I saw in those other kids, which was an acceptance of the situation and all it implied, all we load it with, all I loaded it with, despite my liberal proclamations."

Generally, we tend to prefer our poor far away - in a tsunami relief effort or Save the Children ad. When they're next door, we don't know how to act. Case in point, during grad school I took a part-time job at Office Max; an Ivy league alum acquaintance stumbled in and gave me the most condescending handshake of my life. This all happened during the last recession - indeed, a big reason motivating my return to scholarship. Another friend seemed to drop members of her social circle based on shifting demographics. "It's good (mutual friends) are moving back home to the Midwest; they'll feel more comfortable where it's more of a blue-collar place."

Obviously (since I'm writing about it years later - even after moving to Chevy Chase - bite me, if you please, folks in paragraph above) this smarts.

And I wasn't even really poor at the time - I was in grad school.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

To be or, like...whatever

Like Shakespeare's classics, an episode of The Hills evokes as many questions as it answers...

A JC Penney commercial pays homage to "The Breakfast Club" - mysteriously minus Ally Sheedy's "dandruff snowflake" scene. Equally surreal: Bored with her job at Teen Vogue, Lauren envies her friend's job sorting clothing at an LA boutique.

But enough exposition. On with the liveblogging:

6:28 Why's Faux Biker Chick wearing a scarf when she lives in California?

6:32 Why are she and Malibu Barbie the only diners in the employee lunchroom? (And where on the East Coast can one find such a posh cafeteria?)

6:35 Why subtitles when they're speaking English?

6:37 How did Spencer get a friend who looks like David Beckham?

6:42 Why is Whitney chomping on gum at a classy fashion show?

6:46 "How can you love and hate someone so much at the same time?" (This mourned by Heidi, who spotted Spencer doing shots with a gaggle of strumpets at a club.)

6:50 Why does Spencer on the phone sound like he's talking through a witness-protection voice scrambler?

And the eternal question...



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I get older. They stay the same age.

No, I'm not a player-about-town scoping out the "18-and-up" shows, I'm a nearly middle-age* listener of music on the metro, realizing that the artists in the Musicfone are frozen in my mind just as I remember them in the 1980s and 1990s.

What are they doing now?

Is PJ Harvey still hoarse, scrappy and full of attitude? God, I would be crushed to find out that she was selling Amway and knitting yarn toilet-paper cozies. And Paul Westerberg - I hear he's married with a kid or two. (My teenage self is jealous for a moment, until I realize he probably leaves amp wires and crap lying around the house, and one can trip on those things.)

Best not to wonder. Best not to google.

Once you've seen Rick Springfield rant at a crowd at Celebrate Fairfax! you know you can never go back.

(The Smithereens opened for him - yes, you got that order right - they were the opening band and Dr. Flowing Feathered Mullet the main attraction. Travesty amid the funnel cake.)

* Seriously, you multiply my number of years by two and you do get close to the life expectancy of some countries that are not Zimbabwe (sadly, Zimbabwe middle age would place me at 19.5 years). That's why I chuckle at 60-year-old guys who claim middle age - you plan to live to 120? Right on!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CC (Communist China) Music Factory

Olympic girl seen but not heard

Everybody dance (the opening ceremony synchronized rhythmic gymnastic dance of embarrassment) now!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How do they get here?

Google Analytics is a wondrous thing, and not only because it's revealed to me the present of a sizable German audience (I'm like Hasselhoff!) as well as a few Chinese readers. (I'm surprised they can access it without a stern pop-up from the fearless state leader.) I also can see what Google search terms and phrases have led people to this blog, such as:

- Where's my pants?
(Imagine this person's surprise when he found a link to a post about inappropriately tight running shorts instead!)

- Alive(tm) Elvis
(The registered trademark makes this one worthwhile.)

- Chameleon unisex vest
(For the fashionable lizard who rejects conventional gender roles)

- Thong Brazil and Washington DC stripper dance lessons
(Disappointingly, there's none of that kind of thing on this blog)

- Wood necklaces Talbots
(none of THAT here, either)


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Infestation of the rude

Like cicadas, this week a swarm has invaded a certain upscale Montgomery County suburb which will remain nameless.

Rude people.

(Right now I really regret that decision to clean up the language on this blog “so I sound less like a character in a Guy Ritchie movie,” as I once put it.

What the $%%^& was I thinking?)

Every so often you’d encounter a few rude people – the Capitalist Tools in Lexus SUVs who don’t yield for pedestrians, the ones who hold up the Starbucks line because they’re making sure their precious snowflake’s double-whip cappuccino contains milk made of soy (as opposed to plebian cow).

But generally, just like any neighborhood, people here in the suburb just northwest of Chevy Chase are generally good. Generally decent people working, shopping, hanging out by the little park and fountain with their dogs and kids.

But not this week.

So I’m walking to CVS in this Montgomery County suburb southeast of Rockville. I cut through the shrubs out front – where a little dirt path has been make by hundreds before me – and I trip over some big wood or rock outcropping. I completely bite it, falling flat on my face with my arms and legs sprawling. Hard enough to draw a bit of blood and a bruise. And yes, I was cussing like a Guy Ritchie character.

Out of seven people within a 20 foot radius, not one stops to help. Okay, we’re all busy, I understand. Helping others, particularly anyone in a state of weakness, is very old-school.

But not one even assuages their guilt with a grudging “Hey, you okay?” over their shoulder. In fact, two of the bystanders are laughing at me…and not even bothering to hide it when they see me notice their laughter.

Lesson here: If you are a clutz, accident-prone or just planning on randomly falling over this week, take that baggage to Silver Spring. Or Kensington. Go over to DC or Virginia, for God’s sake. Just stay clear of this Montgomery County suburb.

It’s no Van Ness, that’s for sure.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Because the Vanity Fair International Best Dressed List snubbed me yet again…

I will take the opportunity to mock it.

Excluding everyone wearing purple (Carla Bruni, Michelle Obama, Bloomberg’s ladyfriend, Christy Turlington, Katharine Ross, the velvet-clad Count Manfredi, the pajama-clad Julian Schnabel, the chaps-clad artist from Minneapolis… – just checking if you’re paying attention) and repeats from last year and every year (yes, that would be you two adventurous redheads, Tilda and Lapan), my commentary follows:

Sarah Jessica Parker – Wearing a mink from her “$20 and below” Bitten line (now at Steve & Barry’s)
Ivanka Trump –A bird has taken up an “apprenticeship” in her cleavage! (then moved along to Kate Middleton’s head)
Julia Koch – A billionaire’s wife in a peasant blouse
Matt Lauer – That fedora’s a bit glib
David Beckham – What – no Armani ad?
Prince Heinrich of Somewhere German – Is sleepy
Karl Lagerfeld – Could use a Kaiser roll or two
Stacy Bendet – Is serving Meade at the Maryland Renn Faire
Morley Safer –May have had a few glasses before his interview - God bless ‘im.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

It's hard out there for a DC hippo...

So long, cute little guy.

Now I'm a fan of elephants and all, but do we really need 10 of them? And do they really need heated, sandy floors?

* Note: I think this photo actually is of a fierce pygmy hippo, not the soon-to-be-displaced 7,000-pound one. But you get the general idea.

Friday, August 01, 2008

News of vital interest to women...

A sampling of lead stories this afternoon:

- On I-Village: Would you tell a friend she’s fat?

- On Oprah: How to dress your shape

- On Redbook: Make over your bed

On Blogher: How Blogher should cover the presidential elections, India’s terror trouble (Farther down: “Grout: I’m supposed to clean it?”)

Putting power in the hands of the people is a good thing.