Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Scent of a Zombie

I'm trying very hard to love Walking Dead.

Each fall I try to find a television show to hang my hat on; another West Wing; another Northern Exposure. House was compelling for awhile until it turned into a soap opera that I thought would be relieved this season by the removal of House's love interest. Unfortunately, once Dr. House no longer had a dramatic private life, he turned into a sort of mean-spirited Yente and you get the feeling that he'd be diagnosing these diseases a lot sooner if he would just mind his own business.

But back to Walking Dead...

I know this is rather an odd choice for me, but my whole purpose in trying to find a television show I can embrace is so that I can join in with conversations and sound like I'm interacting with society on a regular basis. The truth is I don't, really. Mostly I just see my family and everyone in my family is watching Walking Dead.

This required me to spend an afternoon catching up by watching all of season one in one great big bite, thanks to Netflix. I'll admit I almost quit after the first episode when they let the zombies have the horse, but I soldiered on. And, believe me, it wasn't easy watching all those episodes together. Watching people being chased by zombies one hour at a time is one thing. Spending an entire afternoon watching people being chased by zombies gets pretty intense.  (I admit, I de-toxed with a few early episodes of Upstairs Downstairs.)

I've caught up and this season I'm watching with everyone else. Perhaps the storyline in interesting...perhaps not. I can't tell you. I'm too busy worrying about when everyone is going to get their next shower.

This can't be just me. I know for a fact that Dark Garden has concerns about there being rampant body odor among the survivors and I, for one, am amazed that one of the women got pregnant at all, considering the lack of facilities at the campsite last season.

The thing is, this whole showering concern is really affecting how I react to key moments in the plot. For instance, when the survivors were in Atlanta, trying to escape a department store completely surrounded by zombies, I wasn't the least bit concerned for anyone's safety; I was just bummed that it meant no one would be showering any time soon. And then, when they draped themselves with dead person so that they smelled like a zombie so they could escape...and then got into a closed vehicle with each other and drove off...and then embraced their loved ones when they got to the campground...I could only curl up in a fetal position and try to keep my lunch down.

Heir 2 assures me that the writers just figure we assume they're maintaining good grooming habits, but I have my doubts. Otherwise, they wouldn't make such a big deal about when they do actually shower. Sheriff's office: big shower scene; CDC: big shower scene; Herschel's farm: big shower scene.

These people are exerting themselves much too often not to have frequent shower opportunities.

What's worse is that whenever they come to a place where they assured of regular bathing, they are always forced to leave. Even the guy who owns the farm where the group has finally found sanctuary (and plumbing) wants them to move on, though, frankly, I haven't seen any lines to use the shower facilities at Herschel's farm -- just a well they pulled a zombie out of and, well, that just won't do.

I don't think it's too much to ask -- just so I can enjoy the rest of the series -- for a swimming hole...a lake...something.

Oh...and a dog. A dog would be nice, as long as I have assurance the dog will not be killed off.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jonesing for a bargain


Sisiggy's Annual Commercialism Rant

Is it me or are this year's holiday commercials just a little too frenetic?

I've accepted the whole "commercialism" aspect of Christmas. I don't like it, but I accept that it is now so integral a  part of our economy that, if it were abolished, something equally or more distasteful would have to take its place, like baby factories or Soylent Green.

I also accept that, as the economy slides further and further, the holiday season takes on more and more significance to businesses trying to make up for a dismal year.

But does every commercial have to sound like everyone involved is on crack? Does every single symbol of the holiday have to appear in every single commercial (except, of course, the actual purpose of Christmas -- don't want to lose those valuable pluralistic dollars)? AND STOP SCREAMING AT ME!

The problem, as is the problem with most acts of desperation, is that rather than making me want to do something, they just strike me as sort of, well...sad. I feel like I'm witnessing an entire society having a nervous breakdown.

It saddened me that so many retailers opted to open at midnight on Black Friday, requiring their employees to leave their families on Thanksgiving Day. I'd hoped that people would just stay home and show that this was an idea that took one step too far.

Sadly, it worked. It wasn't enough to ruin Christmas -- now even Thanksgiving is tainted.

The thing that strikes me most is that every year there is more and more of a disparity between what I'm being sold -- not only the products, but the whole idea of Christmas frenzy in decorating, gift-giving and activity -- and what I truly want to get out of the holiday season. And I don't think I'm unique in my thinking.

Somehow, with millions of good people out of work (like us!), a reindeer sweater-clad blonde skipping maniacally down the aisle grabbing random stuff from displays without looking at what she's buying, not thinking twice about pilfering from someone else's shopping cart*, seems downright obscene.

And before you hop on me about how all this "commercialism" is going to pull us out of an economic slump and suddenly put everyone back to work, I'll have to beg your pardon. After they've squeezed every last dollar out of us over the holiday season, Walmart will lay off all those extras employees and offer their same crappy service; the extra money will not be used to bring out-sourced jobs back to the United States; it will not provide workers with the proper benefits so they no longer have to rely on social services.

By this time we should all know what it will do: more money for retailers only means a handful of executives will get a bigger bonus.

Which, I suppose, puts into perspective the commercial featuring a Lexus in the driveway with a bow on it.

*This aspect of the commercial I'm speaking of -- I think it was Kohl's -- seems to bother a lot of people. Me? Not so much. I figure it's expected behavior given the entire motif of the ad.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Me, Zsa Zsa and Pandora

I've taken to having conversations with Pandora.

For the most part, when I'm at work, I'm alone. My work during this time of year is quite repetitious and basic, requiring very little concentration. So I listen to Pandora all day long.

So there we are: Me. And Pandora. (...and Zsa Zsa, who is depressed because there aren't that many volunteers this time of year. She is used to crowds of people fawning over her.)

I really do admire the genome aspect of Pandora, but I suspect I'm expecting it to pick up on things that may be too nuanced for it to understand.

Like when I "thumbs-down" something, it seems to go over-board in trying to appease me. If I'm on my New Age station, it will always follow a "thumbs down" with Enya. If I'm on my "Cheesy Geezer" station, it's Sinatra. The Folk station gets Dylan. The rock station -- John Lennon. The classical station -- Mozart. And the opera station -- always, always, always Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma -- a young Pavarotti's Nesssun Dorma.

And, honestly, I think sometimes Pandora is messing with me.

For instance, I have a variety of stations ranging from classical to rock. But every single station insisted on playing Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole's "Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World" -- and, for awhile -- always at 3 p.m. I never requested it, but I did give it a thumbs up on one of my stations -- it's a campy, okay kind of song. But it seemed that it would play several times a day -- on any freakin' channel I was on. 

I was forced to ban Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole and I have guilt over that.

And why can't Pandora "get" that, just because I thumbs up Ray Charles, I don't want James Brown screaming in my ear?

And...and...Pandora? I like ONE SONG by Sarah McLachlan -- and I've thumbs-downed every single song since then. Do you GET that I don't want any more Sarah McLachlan?

And enough with John Tesh -- what makes you think I want to hear John Tesh? I don't care WHERE he is playing; I don't care WHAT he is playing. The fact that I have for two years thumbs-downed every John Tesh offering should let you know I FREAKIN' DON'T WANT TO HEAR JOHN TESH.

I know. I know, Pandora. As much as I listen to you, I should be a paying customer. But I work for a non-profit. I DON'T GET HOLIDAY PAY FOR CHRISTMAS AND YOU WANT ME TO PAY TO "THUMBS DOWN" JOHN TESH?????


Monday, November 14, 2011

Think positive...NOW!

It's a phrase that absolutely sets my teeth on edge, almost as much as when someone orders me to, "Smile!"

"Think positive!" The only people who have ever said that to me have said it to either manipulate my actions for their benefit or stood to gain more than I would -- usually financially -- from my having "positive" attitude.

Aside from being rude and unfeeling, the phrase should be restated to mean it's true intent: "Think positively about what I want and to hell with your feelings."

Don't get me wrong -- I am a great proponent of positive thinking. I could not have gone through some of the challenges of my life -- and Linguini readers know they have been many and brutal -- if I hadn't consciously developed an immunity to all the negative energy swirling about me.

I can recognize when, as a family, we've entered "rut mode," where, after a setback, we begin feeding off each other's fears. But even then, it's not my place to order everyone to "be positive." And I'm well aware of the wisdom of the phrase, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Certainly there have been times when I've had the power to set the tone for the household and knew I'd better pull myself together before someone does something drastic.

As a mother, I'll admit when the Heirs were younger there were times I had to remind them that most of what we worry about never happens and to take responsibility for their own, personal "rut modes." But to tell them how the "should" feel ("Think positive!") would have been a betrayal of the latitude given to me as a parent.

I recall an incident when my mother was dying of cancer. I was working in the comptroller's department of a bank at the time, living at home and trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy. This was a time before "hospice" when terminal patients were either kept in hospitals or sent home for relatives to make do as best they could.

It was a horrible, horrible few months for Da Bros and I, not to mention my father, who had essentially shut down, leaving poor 15-year-old Dark Garden not only without a mother, but also without a father.

This wasn't a situation I shared with everyone at work. I didn't want to become "the lady with the dying mother." However, whereas I usually functioned as the office comic, not to mention the department diplomat who smoothed over office politics before it had to go to personnel, I was now more sedate and quiet and, frankly, clueless when day-to-day employee kerfuffles were escalating.

Most of my co-workers and management were satisfied with the explanation that I was "going through some stuff." After all, my work wasn't suffering. But one supervisor -- a woman who got her job mostly because she was married to the son of the bank's CFO and who had been cushioned since birth by money and plain, dumb luck -- just couldn't let it go. She called me into her office to tell me she couldn't help noticing my attitude and perhaps I needed to "leave my burnt toast at home."

And then, when I offered the "going through some stuff" explanation, she uttered the words that ring in my ears to this day: "You need to think positively! It will turn your life around and everything will change!"

Now, not only did I feel miserable because I was 22 and my life consisted of working, going to hospitals and tending to my sick mother and that, ultimately, my mother was going to die anyway, I also felt guilty that I felt BAD about it. Call it a Catholic girls guilt or whatever -- the fact is, that in the throes of my grief and pain, I was made to feel that somehow this was all my fault because I couldn't manage to FEED GOOD about it. And, truthfully, I felt that way for a long time.

I know now, 32 years later, that I was called into that office because I was no longer doing the supervisor's job of employee relations for her. I think of what a more enlightened Sisiggy would have said and even considered, for a time, returning there to deliver my scathing diatribe.

Alas, the bank no longer existed. A few years after I left to move to Virginia, the entire company was investigated by the fed, and most of upper management was found guilty of various forms of financial mayhem.

Still, I have this vision of visiting her in her reduced circumstances, patting her on the hand and advising her to "think positive!"

What reminded me of all this was I was shopping at a department store recently and ahead of me a very talkative woman was checking out, going on and on about why she'd purchased each item or why she chose one thing over another or why her son hated this, but loved that and blah, blah blah. The clerk, as it appeared to me, was focusing on the transaction and not responding to the inane chatter of the customer. This was bothering the customer no end and she kept looking toward me and rolling her eyes as though we should join forces against mute department store clerks.

As the clerk handed the customer the receipt and said the obligatory, "Thank you," Ms. Motormouth looks at her closely and says perkily, "You should smile!"

The clerk had this stricken, deer-in-the-headlights look on her face and I think she almost broke down and cried. These days, especially, you don't know people's story and what they're going through. What I saw in that clerk was a raw, depleted soul, white-knuckling it through her obligations with the last of her reserves being asked by a privileged, insensitive airhead to validate her skills as a savvy shopper.

Now, I'm don't normally jump into the fray on things like this. But that clerk looked so stricken and then looked at me as if to say, "Now, what are you going to hit me with?"

I looked at the Perky Pollyanna walking toward the exit, shook my head and said, "What an idiot!"

We both smiled. And breathed.