Monday, October 29, 2007

A good read for editors

Chris Clarke tackles the topic of editing. If you edit others' writing, are you editing for the sake of editing, or are you editing to do honor to the writing and to the writer's voice? Food for thought.

Save the CTA!

If you live in Illinois, please take a minute to visit Save Chicagoland Transit today. The Act Now page lets you send an e-mail to our state legislature and tells you how to call your representatives in Springfield.

A week from tomorrow, the first round of Chicago Transit Authority "doomsday cuts" go into effect. That's going to make for an awful lot of really cranky people when their morning commutes are mucked up. Mr. Tangerine's regular bus route isn't being discontinued, but another popular route that ends up in the same part of the Loop is being cut. Many of the people who rely on that bus route will be walking a few blocks to take Mr. Tangerine's bus route instead, which means extra crowding and longer waits all around.

If the legislature continues to underfund the CTA, another round of "doomsday cuts" is scheduled to hit in January. At that time, every Lake Shore Drive express bus route will vanish, along with routes serving every part of the city—more than half of all routes, in fact. If you think the El is too slow or too crowded now, imagine what it will be like when many thousands of stranded bus riders take to the rails. Traffic is bound to get worse as those with cars bite the bullet and swamp downtown parking garages by driving to work when the CTA becomes too big of a hassle.

It's ridiculous, really—the city is bidding to host the 2016 Olympics, and the state of Illinois can't summon up the political will to fund Chicago's transit system?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cleaning out your mailbox

Do you get a zillion catalogs you don't need? Does it irk you that (a) all that paper is being wasted to send you catalogs you don't want and (b) someone has profiled you and decided that you are their target audience? There's now an easy way to save the earth and spare your mail carrier's back at the same time—Catalog Choice makes it easy (and free) to tell retailers to quit sending you their catalogs.

I just signed up and canceled a dozen. I can't wait for the mail to come each day now that I can pounce on unwanted catalogs and zip, zip, cancel future ones. Yes, I know you can always call their customer service line to cancel catalog delivery, but I don't like making busywork phone calls.

'Twas a New York Times article by Eric Wilson that tipped me off. Catalog Choice is the brand-new brainchild of the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Ecology Center, looking to cut down on the wastefulness of the 19 billion catalogs mailed each year in this country.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pop quiz

While driving this afternoon, I spotted something emblazoned with this promise: "We provide accurate and meticulous service." Who is making this claim?

A. Makeup artist
B. Tax preparation service
C. Private ambulance service
D. Cosmetic dentist
E. Maid service
F. Scrap metal scavenger

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mainstream transgender advocacy

Over at Pandagon, Pam Spaulding writes that her own blog, Pam's House Blend, won the endorsement of a fundie as a "leading source of radical homosexual propaganda, anti-Christian bigotry, and radical transgender advocacy." Pam wondered, "Is there some non-radical, mainstream T advocacy going on that I'm unaware of that passes muster with the CCLM?"

Well, I'm a heterosexual married Midwestern mom with a mortgage and a sensible sedan, which should qualify me as non-radical and mainstream. Let me go on record as saying that I support equitable treatment for transgendered individuals. Identify as transgendered, live as a gender whose reproductive organs one lacks, have sex-change surgery, date, get married, have full workplace protections against discrimination, raise children, what-have-you—I don't mind at all, and in fact encourage everyone to live as they, choose whatever their gender identity and sexual preference may be. People are people, and all Americans are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

See? Mainstream transgender advocacy. It's easy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wordplay comes to broadcast TV tonight!

If you haven't seen the documentary Wordplay already, but you're up for an entertaining look at crossword puzzles, the people who make them, and the people who like them ("Ooh! Me! Me!"), watch PBS tonight. An airing of Wordplay kicks off the new season of the Independent Lens series.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The cracker speaks out! Honky Pride!

A blogger friend of mine received one of those forwarded e-mails, sent to him by a passing acquaintance who apparently didn't suspect my friend wasn't white—or just didn't care. The e-mail is all about the unfairness of things like the NAACP, Cesar Chavez, and Black History Month, and how the poor, long-suffering white folks just can't catch a break because people will call them racists if they use terms like "camel-jockey." The e-mail and my friend's point-by-point response are here. It's laugh-out-loud funny unless you're, like, a White Pride caveman.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whoring out the blog

Recently, Flea was offered a free pair of Easy Spirit shoes that she awarded to the winner of a blog contest. Actually, she tried to give me the prize, but the shoes were these wedge clogs with a too-high wedge, and my feet are high-maintenance. Seriously high-maintenance. Last year, I walked barefoot on concrete at Flea's son's birthday party, the "Omigod, someone could drown," mom-can't-relax party she had at a water park. (She learned her lesson. This year, she opted for an enclosed and waterless ice cream shop.) And my bipartite sesamoid bones got angry, so very angry, and I spent a couple weeks on the couch, hobbling around the house on one foot, and occasionally requiring the aid of narcotic pain relief to sleep at night. So even Easy Spirit sensible wedges terrify my feet, and Flea gave the shoes to someone else. Well, there's that, and there's also the fact that I feel I am too young for that brand. Far too young.

Still, I thought it was cool that a national company had contacted Flea to offer her a free pair of shoes.

But now, I can top that. A few days ago, I received an e-mail, subject line "Greatings (sic) from" Apparently the fine folks at Lee were sad that I had blogged about Gap jeans, and they hoped to entice me to blog about Lee jeans. All I gotta do is post a link to and tell them where I've put the link, and they'll send me my choice of the jeans they sell. My preconception was that Lee makes Mom Jeans, and not jeans that I want to wear. So I checked out their women's jeans.

First warning: The Jean Quiz. Your "perfect pair of jeans" ought to do one or more of the following:

• Tames my tummy so I don't have to (Subtext: I'd kind of like a girdle.)

• Keeps my unmentionables where they should be - out of sight! (Subtext: I think it's rude when girls show their underwear above their low-rise waistband, and I'm completely unaware of the existence of low-rise underwear.)

• Are stretchy enough that I can enjoy a good meal and not have to succomb (sic) to unbuttoning. (Subtext: I tend to overeat and/or buy my jeans too small. Also, I am unconcerned with spelling.)

Yeah. This is not my demographic. My demographic likes low-rise pants because they let the tummy breathe instead of cinching it with a Mom Jeans waistband that constricts the innards. And my demographic is not too excited about stretch jeans because they get all bagged out after one wearing, and who wants to wash jeans after a single wearing? Why, that increases one's water consumption and carbon footprint. My demographic also has a bunch of low-rise boyshort undies from Target that work great.

Lee did have several options that purported to be low-rise, so I perused the styles available.

• The OTF Hudson Straight Leg Jean includes a "gold lurex sash/belt" with fringe to the knees. Er, no.

• The X-Line Cade has, like, 7-inch cuffs. What in tarnation does anyone need giant cuffs for?

• The X-Line Lynn has 4-inch cuffs. Still too long. "This is the perfect jean for ballet flats or stilettos." Oh, yay. I'm always looking for clothes that go with stilettos. My persnickety feet, they love stilettos.

The other low-rise options looked unremarkable, but given that I try on at least a dozen pairs of jeans for every pair that actually fits right. So no, I'm not keen on whoring out my blog to get a free pair of jeans that probably won't fit me.

Moving past the low-rise category and into the Mom Jeans and Mom Pants, I found something worse than jeans with a gold lurex sash/belt: the poetically named Side Elastic Pant. Go ahead and envision it. Let your imagination run wild. Done? Okay, now I'll tell you what they (I prefer the plural "pants" to the singular "pant") really look like. They're high-waisted, sort of balloony/pleated over the tummy, super-baggy through the thigh (if you remember the baggies of the early '80s, they're strikingly similar), tapered at the ankle. What puts these over the edge to be My Favorite Lee Pant are the shoes worn by the model: sleek kitten-heel pumps. Because aren't those exactly the sort of shoe you expect to see accessorizing a Side Elastic Pant?

Damn. I am absolutely willing to whore out my blog, but don't you think I can fetch a higher price than a single pair of Mom Jeans?

Here come sleepless nights

Oh, god! It's Disembodied Head Barbie, and she sings! I'm going to have nightmares now.

Monday, October 01, 2007


The Game Plan may have a poor Tomatometer rating of 29%, but we saw it yesterday and it was cute. If you're seeing a non-Pixar Disney movie, do you not expect it to be formulaic? Isn't the formula a formula because it works? We all liked it. It was funny. It tugged at my heartstrings. (Seriously! I was in tears for 20 minutes. Am I hormonal?) The little girl was adorable. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was funny and charming (not to mention easy on the eyes...and frequently shirtless). And the movie came down on the side of men (jocks, even) learning to appreciate ballet rather than scorning it. If you want to see a movie that's suitable for a family with kids, this isn't a bad choice at all. Hey, how will your kids learn to be cynical teenagers who reject formulaic fare if they don't first come to understand what the formula is?

Another plus for the movie is that we've got The Rock, a person of color (I think he's half black, half Samoan), playing a football player who, unbeknownst to him, had fathered a child with his white ex-wife. And race wasn't at all an issue in the movie. We don't get to see a ton of mixed-race families in popular entertainment and advertising. And those little "ethnic doll family" toys, they assume that everyone in a family is the same race. So while I don't expect a Disney movie for kids to delve into 21st century race relations, I'm delighted that the studio released a movie in which people date and marry across racial divides.

• After the movie, we went across the street to Fat Willy's Rib Shack for dinner. Good food, decent beer and wine (particularly for a BBQ joint), good desserts (the brownie is baked to order in a cast-iron pan and then covered with a mountain of whipped cream (really—I think it had about two cups of whipped cream on top) and caramel. The food's not cheap, but it was good. If you're catching a movie at the City North 14 or passing through Logan Square, consider Fat Willy's.

• Last Thursday, we missed the season premiere of The Office. Last season, we picked up missed NBC episodes on iTunes (I bought the full season of 30 Rock because I got hooked on it halfway through the season). This year, NBC is refusing to play with iTunes because they wanted to charge a lot more money. NBC's solution is to offer the shows via their own site for free—but there ain't no such thing as free TV. NBC has decided to increase ad revenue instead, so you get a 42-minute episode of the show with, apparently, 18 minutes of commercials. And you can't skip 'em, can't fast forward through 'em. If you slide the progress bar back to rewind and you bump into a commercial you've already seen, you gotta watch it again. And we saw the same three commercials multiple times. We didn't get to see the whole episode, either, because we got trapped in one of the commercial breaks and it refused to proceed to the next segment of the show. We tried starting over and moving ahead to the "chapter" we were on, but the chapter labels weren't too accurate and we never could find our spot again—but the commercials were ready to play again every time. And those commercials? Deafeningly loud. If you turn down the sound on the ad, when the show comes back, you can't hear a thing. The rewinding functionality is so clumsy, it's a pain in the ass to even try to catch what you missed.

NBC's "free" show downloads SUCK ASS. So if my DVR and I miss an episode, NBC won't be getting my money, and they won't be getting my eyeballs for their advertisers.