Saturday, July 31, 2004

Spell Check Goes from "Shakes" to "Kazoos"

when it finds "khakis", fyi, but that has nothing to do with the subject of this post

So it's another exciting Saturday in Iowa. Approximately 36 minutes ago some fellow nerdballs and I were all gathered outside the University main library waiting for the doors to open so we could get online, do research, beat the heat, hang in the stacks or finish up course work for the summer session. I was in the nut hut (aka Psych Ward) a little over 2 years ago for depression and one of the many hilarious/astute observations was made by a guy named Dave. He was wandering through the social area (i.e. a few chairs with a big ass television in the middle of it) and I asked him what was up. Without breaking his haldol-esque stroll or missing a beat he replied, "Oh, just another day before tomorrow." I admit this is how I have began to see the passage of time in relation to my current state of affairs.

I'm not necessarily bothered by this. Sure I'd like a little financial security and some semblance of a social life. I wouldn't mind it if my mother or father were not the only people I ever got regular phone calls from (God bless them for still calling and helping me out after all the grief I've put them through over the years.) Sometimes I miss living in the fast lane -- dashing around from place to place, being the "it" girl with a closet full of shoes and skirts, and squeezing in time to get $100 hair cuts. I can even become nostalgic about worrying what time was best to show up at which club and who you most wanted to be seen with (or sometimes even more important without.) Christ, what a superficial and ridiculous way to live one's life. I'll admit to being ashamed I ever lived like this.

Most people I know are still rushing around all the time. They may not be living the high life but plans are always being made at the last minute and everyone seems to be in a rush. I consider myself in recovery from this lifestyle. I slip on occasion but generally I'm in a rush to make it to a free computer lab before they close so I can write and have access to the free research tools on the internet. I've attempted to make new friends who have adopted a more settled lifestyle as most of my old friends have moved out of state. I'll ask them out for coffee once or twice and then ask them to call me. Mostly they never do or I get the, "Hey I have 30 minutes free in about an hour so I could meet you then if you want" return invitation. I may be in search of companionship but I'd appreciate it if others would show the respect for my time (such as it is) in the same manner I have demonstrated respect for theirs.

One thing that has been especially irksome in the quest for settled friends in middle-age is the arrogant and presumptuous attitude among men in my age bracket. I am a mature and capable woman who has traditionally had two or three very close female friends and a large number of guys with which I hung but it seems after you reach a certain age, most men presume a suggestion of getting together is no doubt a desperate plea on your part to be spared a life of bitter spinsterhood. That you believe you are more likely to be hit in the head by a wayward piece of the Sputnik satellite, hurled into an alternate universe and find yourself in a deserted Siberian labor camp with Dr. Spock-- only in this world Spock has a moustache and the climate in Siberia is tropical. These guys decide on your behalf they'd better pass or humor you with one quick "date" lest you become so enchanted with them you end up being forever wounded at their behest. Good grief.

My friend, Erica, with whom I used to have a weekly breakfast club just stopped by and said "hi." Once upon a blue moon, my often quoted pal, Laura, Erica and I met for breakfast at Lou Henri's on Thursday mornings. Erica has finished up grad school and is moving to Maine with her new beau, Eric. That's almost too cute, isn't it? Eric & Erica. I'm happy for her. Laura moved to the suburbs of Chicago last year but thankfully comes back to visit a few times a year. I'm still here, man. Maybe I've gotten a little too settled. Who knows? I do like hanging out here in the library with my fellow nerdballs. It sure beats having a 2 hour long "clothing crisis"before going out, worrying if your date is wordly enough to know not to fawn over any of the "bright and shiny" (or in those days "dark and dingy") famous club kids you've come hoping to strategically ignore, and then waking up the next afternoon with a small white rock lodged in your nose, an empty bottle of Absolut next to the bed and your Chrissie Hynde kohl eyeliner smeared half way down your face.

It's another exciting afternoon in Iowa but it sure beats the "wild life". Speaking of wild, can it really be true that Gwenyth Paltrow and her rocker husband actually named their child "Apple"? And some other celebrity recently named a child "Coco"? So my guess would be Apple is after Fiona and Coco is an homage to Coco Chanel? I could certainly be wrong. I'm rather pleased with the traditional, unexciting names my siblings chose for their kids. My brother has an Emma and a Sam; my sister an Isabel and a Grace.

I'll sign off now, I've actually got plans for dinner and only 4 plus hours to fret about what to wear. Should I go with the khakis or the Levis? Which ones have the least amount of stains on them? Do I have time for a nap? Oh dear, so much time and so little to actually worry about. Thank Goddess!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I Modified Andy Warhol

Most of the long term unemployed people I know have just given up the job search or decided to take the summer off. When people ask me what I do, I've begun to tell them I'm retired. It's much better than having anyone be impressed with the fact that I'm a writer, an exceptionally difficult and extremely competitive way to earn a living. As one friend slyly noted the world o' writing is "a small, muddy pond with too many animals trying to lap something from it." 

The "I'm retired" line has another benefit. If you share with someone you are looking for work they tend to be full of helpful suggestions which are generally anything but. It's not as if you don't realize these amateur social workers aren't well meaning but how often can you nod your head graciously at what are essentially the same five ideas? Before I took to claiming early retirement, I modified Andy Warhol's famous line as a coping mechanism for dealing with this phenomena. I would smile and nod, saying "Gee, that's a terrific idea." Then I would excuse myself ASAP from the conversation.

I did try to get some work cleaning apartments at the end of the month but by the time I got there they already had 4 million applications. Good grief. I'm still making a little money doing some research gigs at UIHC which is almost fun. I'm thinking about writing an article about my experiences as a professional research monkey. The neurologist who "tested" me yesterday was quite a cutie. I've decided to consider some of these sessions "dates" if the men are at all appealing. After you call and express interest, they call you back and arrange a time that's convenient for you and it's their job to make you as comfortable as possible. What more could a girl want? I suppose, one could see this as a form of prostitution in that I end up getting paid but why shouldn't a gal place value on her time. It's not like the boy is not getting something out of it. It's a mutually beneficial experience.  Who says you can't mix business with pleasure?


Sontag & Kael: Never Stop Screaming?

from LA Weekly by John Powers

A few weeks ago, New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley had a feminist meltdown, or at least as much of a meltdown as the once–Gray Lady would ever allow in its pages. Reviewing the new situation comedy Good Girls Don’t, she came out swinging: “It is hard to pinpoint exactly when it became safe to be a stupid slut on television.” She then launched into a splendid rant about the man-pleasing desperation of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, SNL head writer Tina Fey needlessly removing her top in Mean Girls, and the travesty that Good Girls Don’t (“a cheaply taped sitcom that panders to the vast, insatiable appetite for cheerfully demeaning depictions of women”) should appear on Oxygen, a network purportedly dedicated to offering the enlightened female programming one can’t get on Lifetime.

Faced with such an eruption of genuine feeling — you could hear Stanley’s teeth grinding as she pounded away at the keyboard — I did what anyone would do. I watched the show. Man, was it rotten: mirthless, degrading and utterly inept. As the self-hating jokes about women piled up like a stack of old “Cathy” comic strips, I saw why Stanley had spoken almost fondly about the dignified days when Pamela Anderson proudly jiggled her way through Baywatch — at least her good posture suggested a spine. And I began thinking how dispiriting a woman must find it to watch this kind of crap for a living.

Although we’re told this is an age of female empowerment — why, women now earn 77 cents on every dollar earned by a man! — much of our pop culture is more wantonly retrograde than it was before the women’s liberation movement. Jessica Simpson has become a sensation, if not a role model, by presenting herself as a three-watt bulb. Socialite proto-hookers have made The Simple Life into a hot reality show (with no small boost from Paris Hilton’s bored foray into amateur porn). In Troy, even Helen of Troy — the most famous adulteress in Western civilization — is turned as bland as Laura Bush.

When movies like DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story aren’t gratuitously leering at the T&A of Hollywood’s truest underdogs — the film industry now promotes the same sexual politics as beer commercials — they’re asking some actress to play a hooker, a porn star or an underdressed underage sexpot. (In a recent pud-pulling “think” piece in Esquire, Richard Roeper boldly revealed the shocking truth that middle-aged male moviegoers like ogling jailbait.) Even movies that supposedly take the women’s side too often serve up a teenage boy’s fantasies of womanhood — kick-ass chicks like Kill Bill’s Beatrix Kiddo and Charlie’s Angels — or sink into slack misogyny. The slapdash Stepford Wives remake may at first look like a satire of anti-feminist backlash, but by the end, the devil turns out to be, yes, a middle-aged career woman. No wonder so many women seek the maternal embrace of Oprah’s and Katie’s book clubs.

When I first came to the Weekly in the 1980s, I wrote alongside Helen Knode, the house bad girl, whose reviews frequently pointed out how movies debased women by portraying them as bimbos, psychos, whores and corpses — or ignoring them altogether. Each time she did so, she received furious letters from men saying, “Spare us your feminist politics and just review the movie” — as if it’s not part of a film that the female characters are all vacuous, skanky or dead. After fighting the good fight for several years, Helen eventually abandoned film criticism and wrote a crime novel, The Ticket Out, about the many ways that Hollywood kills women.
Although the degradation of women remains the often-unmentioned elephant in the home entertainment center — and let us not forget the “bitches” and “hos” of pop music — it hasn’t gone unnoticed. I recently asked a well-known film critic how often she sees movies she finds demeaning. “Every fucking week,” she replied. “But I only write about it now and then, when something really bothers me. If you do it all the time, you become boring. You don’t want to seem relentless.”

Sad to say, it’s easy to be thought relentless if you’re a female critic writing about pop culture. When a male reviewer like me points out that Starsky & Hutch displays a disgustingly puerile attitude toward women (wasn’t Ben Stiller once thought to be smart?), this proves I’m a sensitive guy, a hero. When a woman makes the identical observation, she’s considered a strident bitch.

If I seem peculiarly fascinated by the tribulations of women critics, this is because, in my formative years, I was enthralled by two of them: The New Yorker’s late, great film critic Pauline Kael and Susan Sontag, now 71, who has given herself the groovy description of “freelance intellectual.” I clearly wasn’t the only one. In his enjoyable new book Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me, Craig Seligman offers a personal riff on the two most visible American critics of the last 40 years. Not only were they hugely influential — their work has been strip-mined and embarrassingly mimicked by countless other critics — but their vast differences in taste, style and image (one was “Pauline,” the other “Sontag”) marked the boundaries of popular criticism.

Like Mary McCarthy before them, Kael and Sontag presumed to an authority that was routinely thought of as a masculine prerogative. If they have been more praised and reviled than their male counterparts, this isn’t simply because their work was better at capturing the joys of Jean-Luc Godard or modern styles of eroticism; the fact of their being women induced a protracted frisson in an America that has always found it easy to find the bitch lurking in the goddess. Raised in an era of two-fisted male dominance, they became anomalously famous, not least because they spent decades struggling against conventional womanhood, both in their personal lives — Kael had a daughter by a gay man, while Sontag, after an early marriage, settled into lesbianism — and, more important, in their writing.

Although Kael once declared that she consciously wrote as a woman (down to the bitchiness, Seligman quotes her as saying), the woman in question would have to be someone like Ma Barker. Brash, intensely personal, and drawn to vulgarity and violence — she loved “the visceral poetry of pulp” — Kael may have viewed life through the prism of a woman’s experience, but she always made a point of having the biggest balls in the room. When she hit The New Yorker in the ’60s, she gave that genteel magazine a saving jolt of cockiness — Mailer couldn’t have offered more swagger — and her whole approach to movies smacked of the womanizer who genuinely loves women but none for very long. Taking pride in never seeing a film more than once, let alone revising her opinion of it, she treated moviegoing like a series of one-night stands (as David Thomson shrewdly notes in the current Atlantic Monthly). She was fond of cinematic bullyboys like John Huston and Sam Peckinpah because, in her way, she was one. She fostered a small army of male acolytes who became known not as “Kaelites” but were given the sexually insulting moniker “Paulettes” by her rivals.

If Kael was the wisecracking Howard Hawks heroine who wasn’t just one of the guys but their leader, Sontag has always come off as something of an intellectual Ice Queen, detached, impersonal, Olympian. In her younger years, she looked like a sexy European actress, perhaps the brunette sister of Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour. Has any critic ever been more photogenic? But while her remote glamour promised a hidden reservoir of sensuality (one read her essay on the pornographic imagination not a little pruriently), her work emphatically did not. It strove toward the impersonality famously championed by such modernists as Flaubert and Joyce. Sontag was a woman critic, sure, but one who took pains to make her criticism transcend gender. And I do mean pains. Whether boosting the ’60s avant-garde or celebrating the timeless values of great art, Sontag has always been as achingly self-serious as a Tarkovsky retrospective. If she ever caught herself laughing at a movie like Dumb and Dumber, one suspects she’d splinter like a block of dry ice smacked with a hammer.

Both were experienced enough to appreciate the women’s movement — Kael once compared a woman writing for Playboy to a Jew writing for a Nazi paper — yet they were also independent enough to find something insulting in the idea that they personally would need it. Indeed, Kael had the self-made woman’s irritation with those who complained of victimization. When the original Stepford Wives came out, she dubbed it “the first women’s lib gothic,” complaining that if modern women turn into robotized creatures who emulate commercials, they do it to themselves.

Maybe so, but I wonder how Sontag and Kael would be different if they’d come to intellectual prominence not in the 1960s, when the culture pulsed with a feeling of liberation, but in our anti-feminist backlash days, when 8-year-old girls are already obeying the status dictates of commercial fashion, 12-year-old girls “hook up” to fellate boys who offer nothing in return, and a show like Good Girls Don’t boasts a premiere titled “My Roommate Is a Big Fat Slut.” I suspect they’d never stop wanting to scream.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bob Edwards & I Were Separated At Birth!!

I came home last night and there was a stack of magazines on the front porch courtesy of Hazel, the woman who lives in an apartment next door.  I snatched up the August issue of Vanity Fair. Despite for my fondness for Dorothy Parker's lament about having to write for the rag, "No one at Vanity Fair has opinions and I have opinions.", I consider VF a guilty pleasure and indulge whenever I can get my hands on a free copy.

What joy to find "retiring" Morning Edition host Bob Edwards the focus of the monthly Proust Questionnaire.  Edwards was always my favorite NPR guy and I found it a wee bit suspicious that he was "stepping down" right around the time the McMoney came rolling down the sacred halls of NATIONAL public radio.  There is a big distinction between NPR and local public radio stations, okay? There's also a big difference between, say, Public Radio International and NPR but we'll save that for another time.

After reading just the one page, I've decided Bob and I were separated at birth. Never mind that we look nothing alike, are not the same age and he's a good 4 inches shorter than me.  I'm completely convinced. Here are just a few pieces of my evidence. The trait he most deplores in himself is the "inability of suffer fools." Ditto for me. The trait he most deplores in others is "Sycophancy." Again, ditto. The living person he most admires is Bill Moyers. How many times have I said this, or that of all the quote-un-quote celebrities I've met it was Moyers I was most thrilled about.  The qualities he most values in his friends are "Consistently strong character, intelligence and wit."  The thing he most dislikes is anti-labor laws.  Yaya!  Dare I mention a small incident of leading a student employee revolt a thousand years ago?

Now God bless the man for his honesty and sense of humor on this question....Where would you like to live? "Above my current means."  Amen.  I was wandering around aimlessly the other day and found myself in a rather upscale eyeglass store. I decided to try on some frames just for fun.  Sure enough the pair I selected as the ones I would purchase if I could afford new frames were $600.  I couldn't help but ask the salesman if they were the most expensive ones in the place and, sure enough, they were.  Being a writer, journalist, decent human being and justice fanatic with expensive tastes is one big drag. Hey, did I mention the phrase he says he most overuses is "Is there a smoking section here?"  Drag, indeed, I picked that habit back up recently.

Oh well, if you're not convinced that Bob Edwards and I are separated at birth by now there isn't really much else I can say nor am I going to bother with you.  I've got a flaw in my character I've decided I may just have to accept even though it's deplorable.  I just cannot seem to suffer fools. 

Oh, on an entirely different note except that it's related to journalism: 

The only thing I've heard that's half way interesting about the DNC is that Theresa Heinz told some media hounds to "SHOVE IT!" which I don't blame her for one bit. One could say it's just more proof of how spoiled and she is, etc., but if a zillion infotainment hounds were firing questions and aiming cameras at me, I'd probably say worse.

Turner's Beef With Big Media

Excerpt from "My Beef With Big Media" By Ted Turner
The entire text is available at July 27, 2004
I encourage everyone to read it and then forward it along to FCC chair, Michael Powell.

Turner was the first big Joe in the media world to forbid his news casters to use the term foreigner to describe non-Americans. Apparently he had to shame Bill Gates in public in order to get the man to donate a dime of his Microsoft billions to "charity". Does anyone remember the Goodwill Games? I've always had soft spot for the guy.


The Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans exerts a negative influence on society, because it discourages people who want to climb up the list from giving more money to charity. The Nielsen ratings are dangerous in a similar way – because they scare companies away from good shows that don't produce immediate blockbuster ratings. The producer Norman Lear once asked, "You know what ruined television?" His answer: when The New York Times began publishing the Nielsen ratings. "That list every week became all anyone cared about."

When all companies are quarterly earnings-obsessed, the market starts punishing companies that aren't yielding an instant return. This not only creates a big incentive for bogus accounting, but also it inhibits the kind of investment that builds economic value. America used to know this. We used to be a nation of farmers. You can't plant something today and harvest tomorrow. Had Turner Communications been required to show earnings growth every quarter, we never would have purchased those first two TV stations.

When CNN reported to me, if we needed more money for Kosovo or Baghdad, we'd find it. If we had to bust the budget, we busted the budget. We put journalism first, and that's how we built CNN into something the world wanted to watch. I had the power to make these budget decisions because they were my companies. I was an independent entrepreneur who controlled the majority of the votes and could run my company for the long term. Top managers in these huge media conglomerates run their companies for the short term. After we sold Turner Broadcasting to Time Warner, we came under such earnings pressure that we had to cut our promotion budget every year at CNN to make our numbers. Media mega-mergers inevitably lead to an overemphasis on short-term earnings.

You can see this overemphasis in the spread of reality television. Shows like "Fear Factor" cost little to produce – there are no actors to pay and no sets to maintain – and they get big ratings. Thus, American television has moved away from expensive sitcoms and on to cheap thrills. We've gone from "Father Knows Best" to "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?", and from "My Three Sons" to "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance."

The story of Grant Tinker and Mary Tyler Moore's production studio, MTM, helps illustrate the point. When the company was founded in 1969, Tinker and Moore hired the best writers they could find and then left them alone – and were rewarded with some of the best shows of the 1970s. But eventually, MTM was bought by a company that imposed budget ceilings and laid off employees. That company was later purchased by Rev. Pat Robertson; then, he was bought out by Fox. Exit "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Enter "The Littlest Groom."

Monday, July 26, 2004

You Shouldn't Say That. But..

BTW, there are only 99 shopping days left until the election!

 Thanks, Barney! I'm 39 years younger than McGovern and I still I find myself walking away from conversation after conversation muttering to myself "don't listen to me."  

"I don't know of a liberal program that conservatives didn't later endorse," McGovern asserted. "I tell them, 'Are you against Social Security? If not, then shut up.' We don't want to turn it over to Enron, Halliburton or Arthur Andersen. Everybody is for these programs except the most retarded in either party."

As he waded through the crowd, Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank liked what he heard: "McGovern's entitled to say, 'I told you so.' People tell you that you shouldn't say that. But I find that at my age it's one of the few pleasures that gets better."

Friday, July 23, 2004

It's What You Save

This one started out innocently enough. Hell, they all do. It was hot outside and I was hungry. They keep them in a deep freezer in the aisle you must traverse on the way to the cash register. AND, they've been on sale all summer. As my mother and I used to joke whenever we were out spending my father's money, "It's not what you spend, it's what you save."  Now I'm in deep. I have cravings, I'm been coming in over budget for the past two months and when I attempt to abstain I get all edgy and nervous.  I suppose I could blame John's Groceries for my new dependence/addiction to Edy's frozen fruit bars but I know damn well I have to take responsibility for this thing and not blame anything or anybody else.

The aspect of this that disappoints me most is how easily I fell for their painfully obvious marketing ploy. After I'd graduated from buying just one box at a time to two (who needs to the extra walk, for God's sake), the woman at the register offered up a coupon which rewarded me for this sensible take-no-extra-steps decision.  Aha!  I've saved even more money this time.  Well,  the third time I dash in for my gourmet treats, the register spits out yet a new time up at bat I will save a dollar if I purchase three packages.  So, sure enough, I stagger back in and pick up three, feeling rather cocky about being such a smart shopper.  I'm receiving some nutritional benefit to all this madness in that I have to eat several boxes of frozen spinach that have been taking up room in my freezer in order to make room for the popsicles.

This next "chapter" sounds preposterous but is, in fact, true.  The last coupon I received offered me the same savings of one dollar for the purchase of five boxes.  I read it and stood there wondering if my neighbors would be offended if I asked for spare room in their freezers.  I considered the consequences of suggesting my landlady put a household deep freezer in the basement of our house.   I speculated on which of the residents in my 4-plex might be trustworthy enough to hold my booty in the hypothetical deepfreeze or in their own freezers (stored there at my behest, but why share?!).  I couldn't help but flash on those anti-drugs ads from the 80's and early 90's.  You'd see a Willy Horton-esque dude hanging around an upscale playground offering free drugs to all white sixth graders through a chain-linked fence at recess. The implication being that the evil bad black man with the afro pic in his back pocket would return charging more and more until the poor surburban kid was hooked and his life forever ruined.  I imagined myself  and the absurdity of walking home with five, then seven, then nine and eventually eleven boxes of Edy's frozen fruit bars.

It was not a pretty picture but it kinda cracked me up.  I've been fruit bar free for three days now and I'm staying away from John's. It's the best I can do.  I'm already over budget for the month and if I'm going to blow money, I'd rather spend it on decent coffee or a book every once and a while.  Despite how much fun I had shopping w/ my mother, I have learned the hard way it's not what I save, it's what I spend, darn it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Oh, Johnny, Don't Be Soooo Obvious.

Revealing little quote on I, Fatty the new book about Fatty Arbuckle by Jerry "Permanent Midnight" Stahl. May I pose the theory that Mr. Depp has been offered the lead role and has accepted.  The ways things go in Follywood whether or not any of this actually comes to pass is a major long shot but little clues such as this glowing "review" are often indications of such things. Does anyone still read the trades? 

"Finally, the true skinny on Fatty....Jerry Stahl brilliantly gives life, voice, truth and respect to Roscoe Arbuckle. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!" Johnny Depp


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Sand Vein Out of a Shrimp's Tail

My goodness,  Martha is being helpful already (reference the post before this one)!  Now I have an attainable goal for myself. Congratulations Dave Zobel!  I feel for those contestants who dared to outwit the judges.  It's like those old bats in the south used to tell me all the time when I was growing up, "Don't be too big for your britches, young lady!" I ignored them for the most part.  I'm going to have quote my friend Laura again on this, "If I'd wanted to be popular, I'd have done alot of things differently."  Amen.
Martha Stewart Inspires Bad-Writing Winner

Mon Jul 19, 7:07 PM ET

By RACHEL KONRAD, Associated Press Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. - A California man claimed top honors Monday at the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest celebrating bad writing, likening the end of a love affair to "Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail." 

Dave Zobel, 42, a Manhattan Beach software development director and author of "Dave Zobel's Bent Book of Boatspeak: How to Sound Like a Sailor and Know Just Enough to Be Dangerous," bested thousands of metaphor-mangling, simile-slaying writers from Hong Kong to Bolivia with this submission:

"She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight ... summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail ... though the term 'love affair' now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism ... not unlike 'sand vein,' which is after all an intestine, not a vein ... and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand ... and that brought her back to Ramon."

The competition pays mocking homage to the Victorian author whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" opened with this all-too-familiar phrase: "It was a dark and stormy night."

"I never won and wasn't expecting to this year, but to be honest I'm a little jealous of people who won dishonorable mentions because that title would look better on the resume," the father of two told The Associated Press. He won $250.

Runner-up was Pamela Patchet Hamilton, of Beaconsfield, Quebec, who described her style as "Dave Barry with a feminist twist." Patchet, who has written humor essays for The (Montreal) Gazette and other newspapers, impressed judges with this putrid passage:

"The notion that they would no longer be a couple dashed Helen's hopes and scrambled her thoughts not unlike the time her sleeve caught the edge of the open egg carton and the contents hit the floor like fragile things hitting cold tiles, more pitiable because they were the expensive organic brown eggs from free-range chickens, and one of them clearly had double yolks entwined in one sac just the way Helen and Richard used to be," she wrote.

Scott Rice, the San Jose State University professor who started the contest in 1982, said this year's entries were unusually witty. "Sometimes the entrants are more clever than the judges," he said. "Those people generally lose."

One Art

Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Poor Girls

Well, the latest is that dear Martha Stewart is planning to "write" a book in order to help others who might find themselves in such nightmare similar to one she just survived.  She wishes to be of service to others needing to navigate the legal system and in determining who they should trust (hhmmm.....).  Who needs friends or lawyers when they've got Ms. Stewart? So in reference to the last paragraph of the supposed transcript below,  apparently it did not take her too long to figure out something else she wanted to do besides continue to sell Americans her already existing empire.
It has always been my contention that white-collar crime generally pays.  One of the sweet gals who works in John's Grocery summed up the MS verdict quite well the other evening when she said, "Ah, poor girl."  Hey, do think it's true that Michael Jackson has found another "poor girl" to father quadtruplets ( is that the correct term) for him? That's some pretty scary shit.
Transcript of Martha Stewart statement

The Associated Press

Text of Martha Stewart's statement outside the courthouse:

Today is a shameful day. It's shameful for me, and for my family, and for my beloved company, and for all of its employees and partners. What was a small personal matter came over the — became over the last two years an almost fatal circus event of unprecedented proportions.
I have been choked and almost suffocated to death during that time, all the while more concerned about the well-being of others than for myself, more hurt for them and for their losses than for my own, more worried for their futures than the future of Martha Stewart the person.

More than 200 people have lost their jobs at my company as a result of this situation. I want them to know how very, very sorry I am for them and their families.
I would like to thank everybody who stood by me, who wished me well, waved to me on the street like these lovely people over here, smiled at me, called me, wrote to me. We received thousands of support letters, and more than 170,000 e-mails to, and I appreciate each and every one of those pieces of correspondence. I really feel good about it.

Perhaps all of you out there can continue to show your support by subscribing to our magazine, by buying our products, by encouraging our advertisers to come back in full-force to our magazines.  Our magazines are great. They deserve your support, and whatever happened to me personally shouldn't have any effect whatsoever on the great company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. And I don't want to use this as a sales pitch for my company, but we love that company, we've worked so hard on that company, and we really think it merits great attention from the American public.

And I'll be back. I will be back. Whatever I have to do in the next few months, I hope the months go by quickly. I'm used to all kinds of hard work, as you know, and I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid whatsoever. I'm just very, very sorry that it's come to this, that a small personal matter has been able to be blown out of all proportion, and with such venom and such gore, I mean it's just terrible.

We are going to appeal so I'm not going to talk about the case. ... I want to thank Bob Morvillo and his whole team for doing the very best job they could do in defending me."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Transcript of Martha Stewart statement 7/16/2004 12:43 PM-->

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Louis MacNeice Poem (yeah, that one)

As often as I try to pick another poem of his to prefer or inspire me during one of my dark nights of the soul, I cannot.  There are plenty of literary experts out there who will tell you it would be a sin to appropriate or seperate any one line from any of the others but I did it once anyway. I cannot beg for pardon.  It was the last line in the third stanza, the one that is based on Anthony's speech to Cleopatra.  Come to think of it, I titled the poem "any of" and I really like that poem.  I really love this poem.  Hope you enjoy it.  MacNeice' wife had left him for another man when he penned this, taking his only child with her.  What sheer beauty such pain can offer up to the world.
The Sunlight on the Garden
The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Friggin' Killer Stones Song

Will he or won't he? That was the question. We were playing cards when someone called and asked if we had heard what was going on. OJ Simpson had a gun to his head and was leading the cops on a low speed chase down some highway in southern California. "No way!" I responded to this late-breaking development. "Yes way!" my friend Lisa replied. The game came to a predictable and sudden halt as we all rushed into the bedroom and gathered around the television.

Sure enough there he was in the now infamous Ford Bronco cruising down the road with (and my guests and I thought this aspect of the LIVE ACTION dramafest must certainly be a collective visual hallucination) people cheering him on. Okay, we weren't just playing cards. We had ourselves a small game of poker going. Very small stakes and none of us play anymore, as far as I know. The point is, we were already in a betting frame of mind.

There were six of us, three women and three men. I'm a poet and the other two girls were as well. The males in the group were comprised of an elected official, a law student and a guy who I believe was doing graduate work in biochemistry. Gamblers that we were, we started arguing and calling out odds on whether or not "The Juice" was going to off himself. As things so often do, it eventually came down to a gender. We girls were convinced he was going to blow his brains out and the boys claimed to have no doubt whatsoever that he would never do it. No one ever actually put any money on the bed, thank goodness. We Platharoos would have lost, dag nab it!

Later that night, I asked my chum, Henry, why he'd been so certain that Simpson was not going to pull the trigger. He admitted that, in fact, he'd had no idea what was going to happen but he'd suspected that anyone as self-serving and cruel as OJ Simpson would probably never injure his own pretty head. He asked me why I thought my friends and I had been so convinced OJ would take his own life. I told him we chick poets are cliches of ourselves. It wasn't inconceivable in the least to imagine anyone committing suicide. I knew for a fact each of us had tried it ourselves at least once in the past. He shook his head in dismay and went outside for a cigarette. I proceeded to clean up the kitchen. I didn't smoke then. I started up again on a small scale. I'm one of those weird people who seem to be able to do that and only smoke 3 or 4 sticks a day. Maybe I'm kidding myself. Playing with fire? Man, that reminds me of a friggin' killer Stones song.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Fresh Hell As Promised

Democratic presidential candidate and front-runner, John Kerry has blown it with his choice of North Carolina Senator John Edwards as his running mate. I'll tell you why and who he should have have chosen. Everyone knows that Kerry is married to the woman who inherited a barge load of money. The Heinz fortune as you may recall? In America if you have enough scratch you can pay to have any silly 'ol rule changed, so the fact that Tobey is only in his 20's is not an issue. If you don't know why this might be a problem for a less "fortunate" candidate, I'm going to suggest you take an American Civics class (good luck on those loans) or hit the search engine of your choice.

Next issue, please. Howard Dean is credited with bringing in thousands of zealous, young voters onto the electoral dance floor with his "do the hustle" campaign and these kids love Tinseltown. Heck, Tinseltown loved Dean. They were falling all over themselves to hit the road for the guy. Some of my favorite people love Howard, okay? These sweet peas (young voters) need a new hero. They need someone they can relate to. Who they think is cute and available. Call me skeptical but I don't think a married white guy with a skippy boy hairdo and 2 little kidlets is all that inspiring to this battalion of college students. I live in a university town and I'll tell you what...these idealists all love Maguire and everybody loves Spiderman. He's number one at the box office two weeks in a row.

Kerry would have been wise to have chosen a Superhero. Given the xenophobic atmosphere of this nation, Spidey could have spun a big web over the mainland and kept out all the those pesky foreigners who are coming in and gobbling up all our jobs and looking for a better life. He could have enlisted some of his other superhero pals to go ahead and either blow up or mow down the statue of liberty and get it over with. Didn't Lou Reed suggest this during the Reagan administration? MY VP choice would just get the job done. Forget about explaining away a vote for The Patriot Act (unlike Sen. Edwards) or any other such silliness. If some naive citizen were trying to check out Huck Finn from their local library, we'd have a vice-president who could just web the entire building shut until the offensive reader (or soon to be "thwarted reader" as Umberto Eco would refer to him or her) could be brought to justice.

Now here's something that is especially sweet. Imagine the debate between Dick Cheney and Tobey Maguire/Spiderman. When Cheney begins to defend an exceptionally offensive stance on, say, Iraq & Halliburton, my suggestion for Kerry's VP would merely have to lift up his arm, drop his hand down in a palm out position and zap-web the sucker's lips shut.

Yessirbob. John Kerry blew it. Big time. As Dorothy Parker would have asked, "What fresh hell is this?" Why don't these guys ever ask me anything?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Meg Does Manners - Column 2

edited version published in the July issue of The Iowa Source

Dear Meg,

I have a 27 month old daughter, Felicity, who is prone to these incredible temper tantrums, I am currently reading The Emotional Life of a Toddler to try and help me figure her out! Whenever we attend playgroup it's a challenge to keep her from leaving bite marks on one of my friend's children when she throws one her fits. I'm very embarrassed by this. Is there is any etiquette for such situations? Can you help me with my daughter?


My Dear Paul,

Of course, I can help you, That's what I am here for. I am sorry Miss Felicity is giving you a rough time and having one herself. To be perfectly honest, I'm beginning to question this whole culture of insight and I'd suggest tossing out the book. Sometimes the proverbial tomato is just the proverbial tomato. They don't call them the terrible two's for nothing. Easy for me to say, I know. If she were my child I'd be calling in the National Guard, the Navy SEALS, a specialist or five from the National Institutes of Health and, possibly, an exorcist. Either that or I'd be wrapping my head in a bath towel followed by aluminum foil in an attempt to shield myself from the noise and the emotional turmoil of being subjected to my offspring's misery.

As for the biting, have you seen those new style leashes called "Gentle Leaders" which they have for dogs? It's a contraption that allows one's pooch to breathe through it's nose but not open it's mouth. Any decent veterinarian or pet shop should have one. Your friends might find this method a bit barbaric but if it spares you the expense of future stitches, the embarrassment and possible resentment of your peers, I'd take that risk given that we find ourselves living in such a litigious time. I'd be devastated to hear that a member of your playgroup decided to take legal action against you simply because sweet Felicity behaved quite normally for her age. Now that would be extremely rude! Friends should never sue one another. Give her some time, Paul, I have little doubt Felicity will blossom into the full glory of her name in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

Thank you for trusting me with your query.



Dear Meg,

Last month I was watching the Euro '04 soccer game in my favorite bar when that adorable 18 year old, Wayne Rooney, grabbed another two goals for England giving them a 4-2 win over Croatia. I promptly joined the merriment and got completely hammered. I woke at lunchtime and found two phone numbers in my pocket with no names. Should I phone and wing it? What's appropriate in this situation?


My Dear Heather,

I can assure you I would be on to anyone who was winging it about not remembering my name from the night before. I suppose the question for you is whether or not you want to spend your time with a "boy" who would not be savvy enough to pick up on this sort of tomfoolery. My dear girl, what makes you think these numbers are necessarily from a member of the opposite sex anyway? I'll bet while you were getting your groove on there was more than one foxy lady throwing a glance your way and quite possibly a slip of paper.

It's important to bear in mind that the recipient of your call could be on to you and just in it for a free meal or a little tip-toeing through the tulips, if you get my drift. Additionally, there's more than a small chance that in your post-game joviality you tripped the light fantastic with the dreaded Amway sales person, an alien walk-in akin to Dick Cheney or you could well have the phone number of the man of your dreams. I suppose there is only way to find out. If you have that modern phone feature which blocks your number when making outgoing calls, I would recommend using it. I'd also suggest employing a bit more caution in the your post-football celebrations. Call me old fashioned, I tend to like it when a potential suitor rings me up and actually remembers my name and what I look like.

I am pleased you were stateside, Heather. Had you been in a small town in northern UK where soccer fans are a bit more robust, you could well have ended up with a black eye and a busted lip. I know I don't have to remind you what bad manners violence is. Good luck with your digits!

Thank you for trusting me with your query.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I Think It's Got A Lot of Potential

She told him she loves Utah and he sent her little stories about Moab over the internet. They met working on a social reform issue/newspaper they both believe in. He doesn't drink or smoke. He admitted he was worried about the outfit he wore on their first date. She fussed a little over her getup as well but not excessively. He called her when he said he was going to call. He walked her to Union Station. They are not dietarily compatible but, good grief, who is not willing to make concessions or expects perfection. He was nervous on their first date and she realized this and cut him some slack, OF COURSE. Anyone who does not make exceptions for this most basic and human of phenomena deserves to spend the rest of their lives alone, if you ask me.

I'm choosing to be happy for my friend today & relate a little story about manners and tolerance. It's a small story but I think it's got a lot of potential.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Big Bag of Double Stackers

Okay, let's get one thing straight from the get-go, I am no fan of McDonald's or any of the corporate evils that have been associated with them over the years. As my previous posts have probably indicated I am not much of an advocate of greed or mass consumption of any kind. So what's my problem with all the rave reviews for "Super Size Me"? The answers are complicated. When the film first came out I was talking to a friend about it and he said, "Crap, I'd just be happy if someone would buy me a meal at McDonald's." Another friend said that as he was running around working the three jobs he has to work in order to pay all his bills, he occasionally finds himself at the Big M. He purchases a grilled chicken sandwich. He also had the decency to tell me he felt badly relating this story to me as I am unemployed and he is fortunate enough to have three jobs. What a champ.

Marlon Brandon just died at the age of 80. No word on the cause yet and I'm dreadfully out of the loop on most things Follywood. However, I once had it on very good authority that dear Marlon was so hooked on Big Macs and so bloody tired of having his privacy invaded that he made a deal with his local Micky Dees. One of the employee's would drive up to the wall of his estate and toss a big bag of the double stackers over the side for one of his serfs to retrieve. Hell, if you believe everything you hear and everything you read OJ and Kato had a swell meal under the golden arches just a few hours before "you know what" happened. Perhaps, it's more dangerous to be married to someone who eats fastfood? Just a question.

Clearly there are many important, far reaching questions at issue here and I'm merely making an argument to serve the points I wish to make. For instance, if I needed more evidence that eating huge amounts of fat, beef and sugar were bad for me I'd be the first one the list to sign up for ownership of my own copy of the DVD. I felt the same way about Errol Morris' "The Fog of War". Yep, Robert MacNamara was a slimeball and the Vietnam War was evil and wrong. Do I need to be reminded? May I also note that MacNamara is an old dude who used to be "famous" and gets a free shot at re-glorification by doing the public remorse deal. Hey, it worked for Hugh Grant.

Here's an idea. Let's all S U P E R S I Z E ourselves, shall we? One big theater of the absurd. I'm film you if you film me. We'll pool our resources and book a theater. I would not be working on this blog if I did not have larger ambitions (note use of word "large"). In the mean time, would someone buy my friend Daniel a happy meal? The low-carb version, of course.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Bonfire of His Vanity

The 1980's are over despite the return of en vogue hairstyles that resemble lead vocalist Mike Score from Flock of Seagulls. Last I heard those guys were on a reunion tour. Pass. I've received a few voice messages and emails this week from a guy I dated very briefly last Fall who is jetting into town this weekend for the Jazz Festival. At the age of 48 he has decided to become a documentary filmmaker when he grows up and is here to work on a shot. He thinks despite my repeated attempts to decline his offers that I am going to put my life on hold during his visit and volunteer my time, recruit others, surrender all my hard-earned IC contacts and no doubt sleep with him while he's in town.

His method of persuasion -- say it and it will be so. Remember Shakti Gawain? Creative Visualization? Affirmations and the subsequent offspring of this hybrid of simplistic, mindless spiritual malarkey? The kind of quick fix Godsmack akin to putting a coke spoon up your nose or a needle in your arm. During this period I went to chant a few times with the Tina Turner Buddhists. One guy said he got a spot on Soul Train and a woman said it definitely worked for her because she "manifested" a brand new washer and dryer. Just like winning a prize on The Newlywed Game. Gee whiz, perhaps I should have stuck it out. I'm still trekking off to the local laundramat.

I was tempted to tell this guy go the hell. He actually told me he was glad I was willing to put "all my weekend plans on hold" and that he "expected to hear from me when he arrived at his suite at the Sheraton on Friday evening." I just wrote him back and said that professionals knew people got paid to do the things he was asking me to do and if he was in a pinch I'd work for cash. What I really wanted to do was to tell him to take a manners class. Also, as much as I am opposed to book burning, I'd suggest he throw all his 1980's new age spiritual hocus pocus books onto the bon fires of his vanity.

Does anyone out there remember when Dawkins first published his theory about the selfish gene?