Saturday, April 23, 2011

Proud to not be Martha

Turns out I'm a better mother than Martha Stewart.

Last night I was flipping channels looking for my usual nightcap: The Golden Girls*. When The Golden Girls is on, I know all is right with the world and I can go to sleep.

Instead, I encountered a lame talk show featuring Martha Stewart's daughter and her friend -- emphasis on the word "lame." I understand they also have a show during which you watch them watching Martha's show and making comments and, since I haven't seen it, I won't pass judgement, but...really?

Perhaps, though, the "watching the watchers" show was a howling success leading to the snore-fest I witnessed last night. I even stayed with it, mostly out of incredulity (which kind of defeated the snore-fest aspect), but also because I wanted to see how inane and boring this show could get. All I can say is, it must be good to be Martha Stewart's daughter (there must have been some Martha leverage exerted with the Hallmark Channel; like, Martha will agreed to let them carry her show, if they agree to also air her daughter's misfiring attempts at being glib).

That being said, one thing that did catch my attention was when the two of them (don't remember their names; don't care) were discussing what their Easter baskets were like when they were growing up and Martha's daughter said her Easter baskets were those pre-assembled things from the store.

Doesn't that shock you? I mean, wouldn't you envision an Easter basket by Martha Stewart to be hand-woven and dyed, filled with hand-molded Swiss chocolate bunnies and homemade gourmet natural-juice flavored "jelled beans" in glace' bags tied with French satin ribbons?

So, while Martha was in the kitchen folding napkins into fresh floral rings for the benefit of"her dinner guests, she was flinging some gaudy, cellophane-wrapped plastic basket of artificial, cheap chocolate at her daughter.

That makes me Mother of the Year -- by default.

Let me tell you about what Linguini Easter mornings featured.

First of all, see that photo up above*. You can't see it very well, but I made the outfit for the little tyke on his daddy's knee (the "little tyke" being Heir2 and his daddy being Dirtman) -- and you really can't see the hand-embroidered Easter Bunny on the pocket of the romper, nor the self-made piping around all the seams. And Heir1, standing there like a good little nerd? I made his khaki slacks.

I also cut Heir 1 and Dirtman's hair myself.

But, wait! There's more!

That morning when the boys woke up, the Easter Bunny had, indeed, arrived. They knew this because there were carrot crumbs on the floor (I finely-grated a carrot in a path from the door to the dining room table) and he had left them a totally unintelligible note because I've never heard it said the Easter Bunny was particularly bright (I purposely held the pencil between my two palms when I wrote it because...rabbits have no thumbs, of course. Nor do they have a copy of Strunk and White).

And the Easter baskets contained absolutely NO CANDY. Heir1 received art supplies and Heir2 (who was just one year old at the time) had a basket full of homemade, hand-sewn soft toys.

So, okay, for Easter dinner we used paper napkins and my wine glasses didn't match. And I think the dog retrieved most of the Easter eggs hidden by Dirtman. And I'm pretty sure by the end of the day we were all laughing so hard at something stupid because we used those wine glasses extensively in spite of their mismatching quality. And that may have been the Easter Dark Garden taught Heir1 to climb onto the roof of the garage. And someone flushed a battery down the powder room toilet -- I'm pretty sure it was a kid.

So, no...I'm not Martha-perfect. I am, like, on the opposite end of Martha-perfect. Frankly, if I was Martha-perfect, my family wouldn't show up. Or they'd show up and make fun of me.

For instance, the Heirs find it extremely funny that I spent my time knitting these...

...and crocheting these...

My theory is that, to the Heirs, unless they can eat it, it serves no purpose.

Though they do like making the chicks say rude things...

Like I said... my life is SO not Martha...

*Please ignore Dirtman's white socks...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Silly Facial Hair

I don't like facial hair on men.


I said it.

This is a continuing discussion between Heir1 and me. Heir1 comes up with new manifestations of facial hair about every couple of months. We've discussed mutton chops, soul patches, goatees, van dykes and fu manchus.

I file these all under what I call Silly Facial Hair.

Silly Facial Hair is any male facial hair that requires "sculpting" with the razor. It bothers me. Because I realize that, in order to attain the fine lines and shapes of, say, a goatee (seriously, guys -- it even starts with "goat") requires more mirror time than even the most vain woman preparing for her ex-husband's wedding. This is unsettles me.

Silly Facial Hair is the same thing as if we women decided to creatively sculpt our leg hair (I just made some of you throw up a little in the back of your mouth, didn't I? See what I mean?). Like, say, I decided to leave a little divot of hair just below my knee cap (if you're of Sicilian descent you know this is not only do-able, but obvious) or, perhaps I shave just to mid-calf (okay, I admit that when I was single, this was my winter-time strategy. DO NOT JUDGE ME.)

Obviously, full beards do not require sculpting and simple 'staches required very minimal sculpting. I'm not as uncomfortable with those but, still, not crazy about them.

Think...Cary Grant. Imagine Cary Grant with a beard or, worse, Silly Facial Hair. I know...right?

Okay. Dirtman has a mustache. A mustache for which I'm totally to blame. For, underneath his big, furry mustache, are the cutest pair of dimples you ever saw. Dirtman's lip dimples are so damn cute, you just have to wiggle your finger in them and make little mewling noises.

You can always tell when Dirtman is attempting to make up for being wrong in a major argument we've had -- he's clean-shaven. I get a few days of dimple-diving before the craters fill...I suppose I can't really blame him.

Once a year during the winter, Dirtman grows a full beard. He used to call this his "hunting beard" -- which is a valid term for people in this area who, every fall, grow a beard to keep the warm while deer hunting. The important phrase here is "while deer hunting." In the quarter of a century I've known him, Dirtman has gone hunting ONCE...and that was 22 year ago.

Yet, Dirtman's beard is an autumnal perennial around here.

Take a stand, you say? Refuse to shave my legs until he shaves his beard? I. Just. Can't. I did go a few weeks once during the winter and I caved. I'm convinced the only feminists still pushing the anti-leg-shaving agenda are all blondes.

I don't expect anyone to actually take my opinion into account, least of all Heir1, who is currently sporting a sharply sculpted junco with longish sideburns.

I can't imagine why he wouldn't want to take style advice...from me...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Perhaps her Grranimals looked suspicious...

I saw this last night and by this evening it had hit the national press.

I've read about children being frisked by TSA before and I, as everyone else, had my "tsk, tsk" moment.



When you see, raw and unedited, an innocent six-year-old being searched (however gently and professionally), "tsk, tsk" turns into this horrible knot in your stomach that tells you your government has just crossed a really, really obvious honkin' big, red, glowing, flashing line and, with all due respect, needs to ask itself, "What the hell are we doing?"

And before the "Remember 9/11" contingent chimes in, let's remember one thing -- we know what the stakes are now. No one with a box cutter is ever going to take over a plane again. The days of acquiescing to hijackers is long gone. Scissors, screwdrivers, knitting needles, kitchen knives -- as big a baby as I am, I'll risk a boo-boo if it means my plane won't go down. I'm sure an entire plane-load of people would feel the same way.

So we are left with six-year-olds being traumatized false sense of security for any idiots who might be flying that day and perhaps even for those who honestly think this is making them any safer? me here -- I'm at a loss.

I would make some kind of ethical stand like, "As long as this practice goes on, I'm never going to fly." But flying anywhere has been off our activity list for awhile now for financial reasons. Let's just say that if I could fly, I wouldn't fly so nanny, nanny boo boo.

Flying has gotten to be such a chore anyway and, even before all the TSA restrictions, was an experience one tiny step up from being a heifer on a 19th century cattle car.

I expect this will be on Jon Stewart tonight, though he's gonna have to go a long way to make this funny.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Pheebs

When people saw her, the first thing they'd say way, "That cat is still alive?"

Phoebe decided today she'd had just about enough of that nonsense and finally did what we'd all expected her to do 17 years ago.

Truly, she had beaten the odds several times. The first time was when she contracted "something like feline leukemia" when she was just over a year old. That was all our vet at the time would tell us. All I know is I spent two weeks nursing her back to health by keeping her in our powder room and going in three times a day to administer drugs that she was determined not to ingest. For two weeks I looked like I had been picking blackberries with my teeth and her vet bill set us back three months. But she was Heir 2's confidant and friend, so what's a mother to do?

She survived but, the vet-at-the-time said, she probably would only survive a few years.

So we let her have her way. She came and went as she pleased -- mostly outside in those days. Back then she loved to curl up on the tractor seat and sleep the day away. She'd come in at night -- to pee in the toaster. It took us awhile to figure this out -- her aim was that good. But someone finally caught her in the act (four toasters later) and we learned to put the cutting board over the toaster slots. So she switched to the stove -- again, with uncanny accuracy that left no obvious trace until you attempted to use the burner, at which point -- well, I hope you're not eating...

Why did we keep her after all that?

Well, just about when we were ready to drive The Last Mile to the vet...Phoebe would go on vacation.

Two weeks, every June. She'd simply disappear. It took a few years for us to realize Phoebe was double-dipping; somewhere was another family who thought she was theirs. Apparently this was a significantly more successful family, because they went on vacation for two weeks every June -- and sending her to a kennel. They thought they had a cat that they "threw out every night" (like Fred Flintstone) -- we had a cat that came home every night.

In view of the aforementioned vet bill, we got to keep her. Besides, she was only going to last "a few years," right?

And, let's face it -- she was just so darn cute...

As she got older, Phoebe became more of a recluse, finally never venturing further than Heir 2's bedroom. We called her Miss Havisham, not only because she never saw the light of day, but also because she had just as nasty a personality. The only one she adored was Heir 2.

When Heir 2 went to college and Heir 1 moved into his room, he briefly -- under duress -- adopted Pheebs. It didn't last long. Their arguments are legendary and it's a draw as to who was more boisterous -- Heir 1 when she peed on his keyboard or Phoebe defending her actions with her raspy "meows." When she took out his friend's gaming console, she was kicked out.

She was slowing down by then anyway. The most mischief she could cause was to pee in the dogs' bowl or flip a few papers on the floor. She did manage to install 413 shortcuts to a program I didn't even know I owned on to my computer desk top. It was her swan song of subversive behavior.

This afternoon, she slipped away; but not, Dirtman said, before getting in the last word. Before she died she let out a loud, raspy "MEOW!"

Dirtman says he knew exactly what she was saying, but I don't use that kind of language on this blog...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

You ain't foolin' no one, Mistah Puh-doo!

Today's "Subject on the Block" would be Perdue Farms and I would offer up a scathing example of commercial slight-of-hand, along with a rant about how our food is manufactured and how the animals that provide that food are treated.

However, I have a soft spot in my heart for Perdue because I connect their commercials with a warm memory from my past.

Some of you may recall one of the old, old Perdue Chicken commercials -- we're talking back when Frank Perdue was schilling for the company instead of his son Jim. This old commercial featured people reacting to the paragon that apparently was a Perdue chicken back then (they were certainly

One of the testimonials was an elderly woman, who threw up her hands and, in a universally recognizable New York accent, exclaimed, "God bless you, Mistah Puh-doo!"

My grandmother thought that was the funniest commercial she'd ever seen. If we had chicken for dinner, you could bank on my grandmother somehow working a "God bless you, Mistah Puh-doo!" into the conversation and then laughing like we hadn't heard this 253 times before.*

So, for old times sake I will limit my tirade against Perdue Farms to this:

You know that Perdue commercial where Jim Perdue brags that his chickens are not caged?

The fact is that only laying hens are caged. Perdue raises meat chickens who never were caged to begin with. He's not doing the chickens a favor -- he's spinning the treatment that already exists as an industry standard.

Meat chickens are crammed into long, poorly ventilated buildings where they are bred to have breasts so large they can barely stand and the ones that can stand trample the ones that can't. So the ones that can't live out their brief lives sitting in their own filth until they are thrown by those self-same broken legs into a truck to take them to slaughter.

Now Perdue is not the only company that does this -- all the large commercial poultry processors do the same thing; only they have the decency to not make holier-than-thou claims about it.

We are not stupid, Mistah Puh-doo!

*She also liked to get up in the morning, shuffle around and mutter, "Gotta go make the donuts..." like the old Dunkin' Donuts commercial. She would do it until everyone in the house had seen it. Do you know how many people were in our house sometimes? You'd see the performance eight or nine times if you were up early enough. Believe me -- it gets old...

The end of the world as we know it

(...or at least, television...)

The great thing about the internet is you can hear about things on television and in the media without going through the agony of witnessing them first-hand.

For instance, I've never seen Two-And-A-Half Men, but I know I would have to be under court order to part with a penny of my money to listen to Charlie Sheen talk. So when the 5,100 attendees of Sheen's show in Detroit were outraged at the quality of entertainment they received, all I could think was, "You all deserved to lose your money."

Although this has answered a question that has been burning in my mind for awhile now: What kind of moronic, shallow pinheads keep moronic, shallow reality shows on the air and make inconsiderate, self-centered, self-important people of non-existent or waning talent into media darlings?

Now we know -- they were all gathered for a convention in a Detroit auditorium.

But they can't take the full brunt of the blame. Apparently the Rutgers University administration is peopled with the same moronic, shallow pinheads.

By way of disclaimer, I have seen approximately 10 minutes of Jersey Shore. Since it's filmed in my old stomping grounds of Seaside Heights, NJ, I thought I might catch a glimpse of some old memories. Instead, I saw a glorification of the same skeezes that caused me to press the suspicion button at my teller window whenever they walked into the Seaside branch of the bank I worked for back in the day.

So you all know the story by now: A Rutgers University student entertainment group, who receives funds garnered from a portion of tuition money, hired this Snooki person from Jersey Shore to appear at the school and paid her $32,000 -- $2,000 more than the University is paying Nobel-winning author Toni Morrison to speak at commencement.

If that doesn't cause every brain-functioning viewer to switch off their television, stop buying products advertised on these insipid shows and send little Finster anywhere but Rutgers, then you all deserve the society that is going to be choosing your nursing home.

University reps claim Snooki was chosen based on canvassing students for their preferences.


Yes, I know I go on and on about bad TV and I know there is a bit of the, "I think she doth protest too much" in what bothers me -- and I would agree. It bothers me that, in accepting such incredibly poor programming, our choices are narrowing along with our ability to handle any plot more complicated than the train-wreck lives served up by reality shows.

Obviously, the power-that-be behind television programming know that sensational and shocking plots will draw in more viewers. But, they also know that the more adrenaline-inducing scenarios they throw at the public, the more desensitized they become and the more adrenaline-inducing scenarios will be required to finally satisfy them (sorry- this is beginning to take on a definite sexual metephorical tone...). In other words, the more TV (and advertising) they can make you watch, the more TV (and advertising) they can make you watch.

Let's just say that on the mainstream level (and, truly, I know how pretentious the word "mainstream" is...), "subtlety" is dead; "nuance" is dead; artful allusion is dead.

The Kardashians, however, continue on.

Or, perhaps, because I have only seen approximately 10 minutes of any given reality show, something more goes on after I turn it off? Does a Jersey Shore Guido suddenly have a lucid moment at some point or does a Kardashian suddenly look up and ascertain where lies the true center of the universe?

I would say that's just about as likely as Charlie Sheen completing his 20-city tour.