Friday, August 24, 2007

Hugo Chavez and Mr. Tangerine

So, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that his country's moving up a half hour. Yep, he's putting Venezuela into its own half-hour-off time zone. (Speaking of half-hour-off time zones, look at Australia's map, which doesn't even show the little area that's off by 45 minutes.) Chavez has ideas about giving a metabolic jump-start to his people, but I'm not sure science is on his side.

Closer to home, we had a power outage yesterday from the cuckoo thunderstorms that uprooted our favorite neighborhood mulberry tree and many others, tore off countless tree limbs, and dashed assorted high rise windows and swimming-pool roofs to the ground. That's got nothing to do with my point, but who doesn't like to talk about extreme weather? Anyway, I was engaging in the ritual Resetting of the Clocks. Mr. Tangerine's alarm clock had been set about 26 minutes ahead (a hassle when Ben comes in and tells me it's 8:00 and thus time to get up, when it's really closer to 7:30 and dammit, I'm trying to sleep here). So I asked him what clock setting he wanted. "A half hour ahead," he said.

Next thing you know, my husband will be reading Noam Chomsky and saying that Bush is the devil and smells of sulfur.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

*cough cough*

Poor Ben. He's got a sinus infection.

For a few days he had one of those fevers without accompanying symptoms, and then when the fever dropped down, his nose filled up. And then the nighttime coughing started—last night, he coughed so hard it gave him a headache.

So we went to see the pediatrician today. Before she came into the exam room, I bet Ben a dollar that she would exclaim over how tall he'd gotten (because that seems to be the obligatory thing that people always say to him). Yes, I am teaching my child to incorporate gambling into daily living; you got a problem with that? But she didn't say it! Ben demanded the dollar anyway. Because I'm an old softy (and doing a lousy job of teaching my child how gambling works, apparently), I did give him that dollar at bedtime. I tucked it in his Mason jar of cash. "I collect money," Ben told me. It's not his only collection, either. He also picked up a bunch of beer bottlecaps along the lakefront. Gambling, beer paraphernalia, and money collecting—you can't say that atheists don't raise children to have tiptop morals!

Anyway, the doctor prescribed amoxicillin for the sinus infection and recommended giving him Claritin, Mucinex (I just love the generic name, guaifenesin), and drops of saline in the nose followed by vigorous nose-blowing to clear out the sinuses. Or as I like to put it, he's to "blow his nose till he cain't blow no more." It's not an instant cure, so he's still coughing a fair amount tonight. But soon he'll get better.

On the plus side, we had some time to kill at Walgreens while waiting for the prescription to be filled. So we headed to the candy aisle, which amused me by being home to not only vast quantities of sugar and fat, but also hosting the Alli and other weight-loss products in a sealed case. "I'm fat. I really need some help losing weight. Where's that Alli stuff? Oh, here it is. Huh. It's locked in this case. I don't see an employee around here, either. What's this over here? Large Lindt bars, tins of mini chocolate truffles, king-sized candy bars, and sacks of candy? Hmm." My eyes scavenged the entire aisle until I finally found my manna: Sno-Caps. Eh, they're not as good as last time. Should've just grabbed the king-size Snickers Almond, man.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Scar chat

Chris Clarke wrote about his scars, which naturally caused me to think of my own.

My biggest scar: From my C-section, a bikini-line incision. It measures 5 ½ inches from end to end, and a human being was pulled through that slit. Granted, Ben was a very small human being at that point, but still—it's really not a wide scar at all considering its purpose. The nurses on the OB ward marveled at what a lovely incision the doctor had made. Um, all right, if you say so.

My most dramatic scar: A half-inch oval on the inside of my left calf. In 1991, my new husband and I went downtown for Chicago's grand 3rd of July fireworks. Hey, when you add a million spectators and their cars to a small part of downtown, nobody's getting home at a decent hour, so why hold the fireworks show on the 4th? Everyone who has to work on the 5th will be short on sleep. Given those huge crowds, including many thousands of people taking the bus or the El, getting home by public transportation was going to be crowded, sweaty, and uniformly unpleasant. So Mr. Tangerine and I decided we'd walk home along the lakefront. Sure, the 5-mile walk would take us a couple hours, but it was a lovely night.

Alas, some bozo on Lake Shore Drive lit a cherry bomb and tossed it over the edge of the road...and down to the crowded sidewalks by Monroe Harbor, filled with holiday revelers. That firecracker exploded in the air next to my leg. I had a gouged-out spot on my calf, a bleeding chemical burn, plus many speckles of chemical burn on the rest of my leg real estate. The concussive noise knocked out my hearing for a few days. And boy-oh-boy, you don't want to be in a crowded place outdoors when you require emergency medical assistance. We walked a few blocks to North Pier, with bars and restaurants and phones, and waited for my ambulance. A fire truck arrived first. For me! I felt so special. Then they summoned an ambulance because I didn't much feel like walking to the ER...though it probably would have been faster to walk, I was pretty out of it. The ambulance carted me, what, maybe a half mile. I don't remember how long the trip took.

I had to bide my time in the ER—that woman who'd been beaned by a glass beer bottle was a higher priority. Eventually they tended to my wounds and prescribed a silver burn ointment, and I skipped pantyhose for a couple weeks. (I can scarcely believe that I was wearing pantyhose every day to work back them. Everyone did! Those were crazy times.)

The truly dramatic part of this tale is that we had been strolling behind a couple who were walking their bikes. Attached to one bike was a trailer with their twin babies going for a ride. Can you imagine if the cherry bomb had been tossed a moment sooner and it had exploded between those babies? Or if it had been next to my head and not my lower legs?

People who are made uneasy by fireworks and/or crowd scenes love this story and retell it to explain their objections to 4th of July antics.

So: How big is your biggest scar? What's your best scar story?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Only one shopping day left!

That's right. It's about to be my birthday.

I'm getting older. No turning back, no stopping the aging process, no slowing it down.

But I'm at a good spot in my life, I am. I fulfilled that life goal of publishing my first book by age 40. (Okay, that's total bullshit. I made up that goal when I realized the book would be out several weeks before the next birthday, and congratulated myself for the achievement.) I love my husband and my kid (who, by the way, is looking tough these days with his first-ever buzzcut), and all is right with the world. Well, okay, that's not true—but within this little corner of the world, things are just fine.

And a history of sun avoidance means my skin doesn't show my years. So happy thirty-eleventh birthday to me!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Waffles topped with misogyny

Do you ever hanker for a melding of The Comics Curmudgeon and I Blame the Patriarchy? Well, hanker no more. Jay—who yielded to temptation after I fed her a series of tasty links to blogs and started blogging—observed some misogyny before breakfast in yesterday's funny pages.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I win at nonspirituality!

I might well be the single least spiritual person of your acquaintance.

The vigorously philosophical atheists and agnostics who engage in discussion about their beliefs are devoting far more time than I do to matters of the spirit or lack thereof.

I don't believe in God, Zeus, Odin, Thoth, Goddess, an overriding essence within nature, an omniscient power, Buddha, Ganesh, Satan, tree spirits, New Age spirituality, Wicca, druids, pagans, "something out there," or the rest of that ilk. I don't believe in immortal souls. I don't believe in life after death, though I recognize what a lovely idea it is, particularly for someone whose life on earth pretty well sucked.

I don't crave the community and ritual associated with congregations and worship services.

I never believed in a god. Not as a child, not in adolescence, not in college, not in adulthood. I never had a flirtation with religious belief. I never tried on a denomination for size. I never grappled with doubts that my beliefs might be wrong. I never feared that I ought to choose religious faith just to be on the safe side. I didn't have my son baptized just to appease the relatives who wanted him baptized.

I do, however, have morals. I live an ethical life. I play fair. I nurture my friends and love my family. I let pedestrians in the crosswalk do their thing. I count my grocery items and never get in the express checkout lane unless I'm within two items of the allowable total. (Twelve, ten, what's the difference?) I'm a nice person.

I don't think there are many of us, in the U.S. at least, who have been this resolutely nonreligious and nonspiritual throughout their lives. How many do you know? And are they lovely people?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Skinny girls

The other day I was downtown and noticed some skinny girls visiting Millennium Park with their families. Not women—girls. Say, 12 years old. Long, skinny legs, skinny arms, skinny waist.

Me, I was a scrawny kid. Not one of those gangly long-legged skinny kids, but short and skinny. A lot of kids are just naturally built like beanpoles.

What struck me is that the build of a 12-year-old skinny girl who hasn't quite launched into puberty is the very body type that the fashion industry promotes. Add three years to this girl, let her grow taller but not rounder, and she becomes the ideal model.

So really, that ideal isn't just about emphasizing thinness. That thinness evokes images of reed-thin 12-year-old girls, doesn't it? It's not exactly the sexualization of childhood, but it's definitely the sexualization or fetishizing of a childlike physique.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A touch of patriarchy blaming

Two recent articles left me chortling at the idiocy of some men.

In the New York Times, there was an article about a new fall show called Reaper, scheduled to air on the CW network. The main characters are guys, but—are you sitting down?—the show is written by a pair of women. Yes, women! See:

More than anything else, however, the show has turned heads with its writing, which was unexpected for several reasons. The writers behind the show had chiefly worked on the crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” not a series known for its laugh lines; and they put together a pair of lead characters who most resemble the slacker guys now dominating contemporary film comedy (as in “Knocked Up”).

But the writers themselves are nothing like those guys. In fact they are women.

The show's director is Kevin Smith, who pronounces that "for two chicks to write something like this, that was kind of spellbinding.”

The article breathlessly points out how implausible it is that women—ordinary 35-year-old non-men!—could summon the ability to write immature jackass slacker guy characters. Because...why? Because women have never been exposed to such fellas and couldn't conceive of what they'd say and do?

Gimme a fucking break.

But it gets worse: Listen to one of the actors in the show.

The dialogue between the two buddies seems so authentic that Mr. Labine said he was stunned to learn two women had written it. “I didn’t actually read who wrote it when I read the script the first two times,” he said. “And then I saw it, and I was like just shocked. They definitely did a little research to figure out how to write for dudes.”

I look forward to more breathless Times articles about men! who have TV writing jobs! and write female characters! Omigod, how do they do it?!?

And then, holy shit! What about books by men? What about Shakespeare? How unusual for male writers to be able to write female characters. What'll they think of next?


The other article was Louisa Thomas's "Rebuttal Dept." piece in the New Yorker. She presented Hawaiian Tropic Zone restaurateur Dennis Riese's impassioned rebuttal of the idea that his place is nothing more than a fancy Hooters.

If you were trying to write a satirical piece mocking the mindless sexism of a man who thinks he's a feminist but isn't, you might hit many of the same points Riese makes.

Nor is Hawaiian Tropic Zone a strip club. “No nipples,” Riese said. “You’re never, ever going to see a girl nude.” He continued, “I’m such a feminist. I love women and believe in them. And I’m not being P.C. by saying that men and women like to look at the woman’s form—it’s been going on since Michelangelo, you know, since they were doing statues of Venus de Milo. So I really believed that I was creating a restaurant that was going to appeal to men and women. I used colors that are very feminine in this place.” He gestured toward a tropical mosaic and toward a pair of soft-orange overhead lights shaped—as are the salt and pepper shakers—like breasts.

(Insert your own point-by-point critiques here.)

Riese says his restaurant is woman-friendly because they offer "simply grilled" menu items for the girls who are on a diet, and allows sharing of dishes for the girls who are (a) on a diet and (b) broke. Riese continues:

“Women like sexy. Talk about empowerment and feminism! There’s nowhere offering women sexy in the way they would like it to be—classy sexy!”

The next sentence in the article describes the waitress's outfit: a string-bikini top and a mini-sarong. Classy sexy! And empowerful!

A male customer asks Riese if it's true that customers get to rank the waitresses by attractiveness level. Riese is quick to deny it and to explain his evolved stance:

“No, but we have a beauty pageant,” Riese said. “Twice a night. Music comes on, and they walk across that stage up there. The ballots are on every table.” The winner, Riese said, “gets a little tiara, and she wins fifty dollars.”

“My understanding was that you rank them, from one to ten,” the banker persisted. “And it seemed surprising to me—I would think that the women who scored very low, especially ones who took pride in their good looks or their bodies—”

“But we don’t do that,” Riese interrupted. “That would be prehistoric.”

It would be insulting to you, the reader, for me to explain the critical errors Riese makes in his feminist praxis. You can fill in all the blanks yourself, can't you?