Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On stuff I already told you

Okay, so mere moments ago, I predicted that wacko conservative Christians would be blaming this act of God on gays, when I was sure that God had another message. I done toldja, I done toldja. Feel free to ask for lotto numbers and football scores:
How did I know that WorldNetDaily would eventually publish a gem like this:

Hurricane hits just before homosexual event

Christian activist: Act of God prevented 'Southern Decadence' festival

Hurricane Katrina walloped New Orleans just two days before the annual homosexual "Southern Decadence" festival was to begin in the town, an act being characterized by some as God's work.
Fascinating. The hurricane also struck only one week after the annual Shrimp Festival in Delcambre, Louisiana. As you all know, God hates shrimp so much that He pointedly calls them "abominations" in the Bible. This debauched, gluttonous festival in Delcambre clearly aroused God's wrath and forced Him to seek vengeance. So for all you sinful jerks who decided to flaunt the Lord's will and chow down on shellfish, I point my finger and say, "YOU helped this to happen!"

In other news, I just got back from the grocery store, and you'll be pleased to know that Atlantans are now well-prepared for the bread, milk, and drinking water shortages that will inevitably follow the run on fuel. Still more forward-thinking, I myself have prepared for shortages of gin, tonic water, limes, Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream, and Lean Cuisines. Feel free to follow my lead; I believe my talents for foresight are well documented.

On a special circle of hell

Okay, so there will always be someone ready to take advantage of a tragedy, and it pisses me the hell off. It's almost a relief; I've been feeling so indescribably odd, watching death and devastation from the comfort of my couch, that it feels good to get pissed off.

Here goes: put down the TV. Put the TV down. You don't have electricity. Put down the Rolex, put down the Playstation. The entire world has collapsed for hundreds of thousands of people, and your first thought is, Hey, free electronics! Fuck you. Fuck you, put the TV down and go fuck yourself again. And when you're done doing that, go to a shelter and see if they need help passing out blankets. Help your neighbor sift through the rubble of his house to see if any of his possessions made it. But if you can look your friends and your neighbors in the eye, if you can see the terror and the sorrow in their eyes and then think, Oh, I'm totally hitting up Wal-Mart, go fuck yourself right now.

And to jump on a post from our friend Doug, this one's for the media: there's a difference between a TV and a loaf of freaking bread. I don't particularly approve of stealing stuff, but I think that in a situation where you have nothing in the world and none of the stores are open anyway and the bread is just sitting there going bad, you're not unlikely to get a heavenly Mulligan if you go ahead and take it. There are looters, and there are people trying to feed their families. You can usually tell them because the looters are the ones grinning into the TV cameras as they run out with a DVD player under each arm. My suggestion? Interview them. "Sir, what's your name? And what kind of discount did you get on that DVD player?" Make a nice video record of everyone committing crimes so that when the authorities have some free time once the recovery is through, they can go knocking on doors, saying, "Hello, Mr. Johnson? Is this your stupid-ass face grinning on TV as you steal a DVD player from Wal-Mart?"

My dear mother made the point that if ever there was a time to call in the National Guard, this would be it. They're easy to find. Just take a left turn at Kuwait and keep going until you see the smoldering pile of nascent democracy.

And finally, here at home, there are the gas stations that have started charging upwards of three dollars a gallon, citing anticipated fuel shortages. I'm not buying that shit. No matter what happens to the supply in the future, I know that the gas running through your pumps right now cost you $66 a barrel. Now, some stations, realizing that they only keep about ten days' worth of gas on hand at any given point, are doing things like limiting customers to $10 worth of gas, and I support that. No reason not to make it last as long as you can. But if you're charging $3.56 for a gallon of gas that was $2.56 just the day before, that's price gouging, and you can go fuck yourself, too.

People freaking disgust me sometimes, I swear. I'm getting a bicycle. Out.

On the scariest thing that's happened in my lifetime

Okay, so parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are gone. Gone. Just gone. People were evacuated from their homes, and came back to a lack of home. Not even, in some cases, a ruined home, or the rubble of a home. Nothing. During the leadup to Katrina's landfall, I was thinking about how horrible it must have been to prepare for something like that, to decide which parts of your life could be packed up and loaded into the car and which parts to leave behind, and I thought it was possibly worse than losing everything to a fire, because with the hurricane, you had time to think. When you wake up to the smoke detector, you grab your kids and your pets and your purse and the photo album and Grandma's Bible by your bed and you're out the door. With a hurricane, you have time to sit there and ponder the fact that whatever you choose to bring means one thing you have to leave, and that the things that you leave are things you're likely to never see again.

Those feelings of despair, however, have to pale in comparison to the reality of it all, the coming home to find nothing. Or the staying, hoping to ride it out, and watching it all literally dissolve in front of you. One elderly man interviewed by NBC talked about clinging to a tree, holding onto his wife for hours, until she said, "Honey, you can't hold on like this forever. Take care of the kids and the grandkids," and then she was gone.

Every report is worse. I've been listening to them on the radio, which somehow seems to make them scarier than watching them on TV. I hear reporters talking about buildings with black Xs on the doors to signal that there are dead bodies inside, because the boats can't stop for the dead when there are so many living people clinging to trees and holed up in attics. When I do see reports on TV, they're always showing New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter, and it's always under water, and I realize that New Orleans is gone. It's not just a historical landmark that got knocked down or a favorite vacation site that closed up, it's a city, and it's gone.

Various hateful wacko Christian loonies have suggested that disasters like the recent spate of hurricanes occur because the US has displeased God, that our tolerance for gays and abortion and feminism and take-your-pick has caused Him to lift His protection from us. Of course, all sane people scoffed at that. But now, I can't help but start to wonder. I don't think for a minute that God has lifted his protection from us to punish us for loving our fellow man as His son taught us, but as the Gulf coast got spanked and spanked by hurricanes until ultimately, it was completely destroyed, if does make me wonder if maybe the Almighty isn't trying to send us a message that we just plain aren't getting. If so, I hope He picks a less destructive way of sending it next time. I hate to think of all of those innocent people losing their homes, their families, everything, because we just can't figure it out.

This has been unlike anything I've seen before. I hate to pull the 9/11 card, but I do remember watching the footage shortly after the towers fell and thinking, There were two great big towers there, and now they're gone, and they'll never be back. And now I look at New Orleans under water, and I think the same thing, except it's a city. Buildings can be rebuilt, possessions can be replaced, but you can't just put together a city from blueprints and shopping lists. Regardless of what sits on the land designated New Orleans, or Gulfport, or Biloxi, it'll be an imitation, a reproduction, an eerily accurate Disneyland Small Small World version of the real thing, and that's the scariest thing that's happened in my lifetime.

Monday, August 29, 2005

On delicious irony

Okay, so this is way more ironic than ten thousand spoons. Courtesy of TBogg, a tale of Move America Forward, whom we met earlier with their "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy" caravan. Apparently, they showed their mettle by clashing with and beating the pudding out of another protest group.

The rub: the group was the Protest Warriors, and they were on the same side:
The crowd, which organizers said topped 3,000 but appeared closer to 1,500, chanted "Cindy, Go Home" and compared her to Jane Fonda, whose visit to a North Vietnamese gun site in 1972 earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane."

"Cindy-Hanoi Jane," read one of the signs at the rally.

In one heated moment, members of the pro-Bush crowd turned on what they mistakenly thought were a group of anti-war protesters, cursing them, threatening them and tearing down their signs. A police officer rushed the group to safety.

Also, revel as Freep's Kristinn Taylor (and yes, all evidence to the contrary, that is a dude) gets into a slapfight with another protester, also on his side, proving that not even fellow wacko wingnuts can stand him.

This is fantastic news! There we that we actually had to fight against these people, when really, we just need to sit back and watch them cannibalize themselves! Brilliant.

Oh, and darn TBogg to heck for getting in the "Life of Brian" reference before I could.

On brief returns

Okay, so at least we know Mary isn't dead.

Friday, August 26, 2005

On Friday, Random Ten

Okay, so a note to any PR firms that feel like pitching me a new restaurant, club, or store: the best plan of attack, interestingly enough, is not to throw me your tallest, thinnest, blondest PR assistant in hopes of getting coverage. I don't want to wander through the new, hot Atlanta eating establishment next to some kind of six-foot-tall Kate Hudson in a pinstriped suit. You want my attention, he should be 6'4" and built like Tom Brady, or she should be 5'4" and built like the Astrodome. I can guarantee a glowing review.

On to the ten...

1. Vertical Horizon, "Miracle"
2. Diana Krall, "Popsicle Toes"
3. Joss Stone, "Victim Of A Foolish Heart"
4. Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit"
5. Gioachino Rossini, "Petite Messe Solennelle: Sanctus: Ritournelle"
6. Coldplay, "Don't Panic"
7. Sting, "Tomorrow We'll See"
8. Kay Starr. "It Had To Be You"
9. Home Grown, "Suffer"
10. OMD, "Enola Gay"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On the hotness

Okay, so often is the question asked: how metro is too metro? Tennis hottie Andy Roddick helps us answer.

Andy Roddick, delightfully scruffy

Andy Roddick, with highlights and fauxhawk

Bad Andy. Naughty, naught Andy. Go to my room.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

On the mother of invention

Okay, so a few months back, I was teasing Doug about his bold choices in home decor, specifically his decision to decorate almost entirely in empty beer bottles and boxes of Tanqueray. Well, someone has come along who can beat that with a sock full of tangerines, and that someone is softwear developer and honorary Womble Jose Avila.

Living on his own, somewhat strapped for cash, and surrounded by empty FedEx boxes, Avila had the brilliant idea to turn shipping materials into furniture. And we're not talking about a pile-of-padded-mailers chair next to a half-smooshed-large-box table; this is actual furniture. Behold the genius that is his nine-and-a-half-foot couch (with center storage compartment), dining table and four chairs, bed, and really-almost-attractive L-shaped desk. And it works! He's got himself a sleep-onnable bed, a sit-onnable couch, and a put-your-computer-onnable desk.

But of course, you can always count on corporate America to have a big old stick directly up its collective butt. Citing the DMCA (pdf), FedEx has said that Avila's website and blog constitute an illegal use of their logo. And they're not too happy about him using all that free packing material.

All of this leads to the question: if FedEx on crack? First of all, Avila's site? Not exactly a FedEx doppelganger, especially considering the "If you are trying to reach FedEx, click here" warning across the top. And if that wasn't enough to send you on your way, the "what is this" section does a pretty good job of telling what this is.

The biggest bucket of stupid, though, has to be the fact that FedEx is missing out on a huge marketing opportunity. Sure, they probably don't want to publicize the whole thing, because poor kids would be snapping up free shipping materials left and right. But what better testimony to the strength of their packaging than to have a 5'6", 165-pound man jumping up and down on a bed made of the stuff? What better way to show the plushness of their padded mailers than to make them into a cozy slipcover?

Instead, though, they start throwing around big legal words to scare a guy who obviously isn't making any money off of it, or else he would have actual, real furniture ('cause let's face it, a guy with a FedEx box bed is likely to be sleeping in it alone) and make it abundantly clear that they have no. Sense of humor. Whatsoever. If I were DHL, I'd hire this guy to make a red-and-yellow bookcase, dresser, and china cabinet to match the rest of his furniture, if only to show that they, at least, can take a freaking joke.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

On speaking for yourself

Okay, so as the "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy" caravan winds its way toward Crawford, I'd like to remind the world that, um, she never said she did.

Granted, others have called her the voice of a bunch of different things, mostly of mothers who have lost sons in Iraq. Some mothers (and fathers, too, and loved ones of all kinds) have been inspired by her either to join her in Crawford or to protest the war in their own way. Others disagree with her, some vehemently. But through it all, the person who hasn't claimed to speak for anyone but herself is Cindy Sheehan. She doesn't shrink from expressing her opinions, no matter how controversial, but she also doesn't assign those opinions to anyone but herself.

A similar subject was raised in Sunday's AJC, where Ronald Griffith, who lost his son in Iraq, writes that "Sheehan doesn't speak for all of us." He shares with us the opinions of several other mothers and fathers in his situation, parents who disagree with Sheehan and feel that the war is noble and has a purpose. I might disagree with them on that last point, but their feelings are certainly valid. It would be interesting to see them sit down with Cindy and her Gold Star Mothers and compare notes, not about the war, but about the children they've lost; they probably have more in common than they realize.

Regardless, Ronald Griffith doesn't speak for the people currently sitting in Crawford, waiting for Bush to come out of his compound and address reality. But then, Griffith doesn't claim to speak for anyone but himself, and he's good enough to allow others to speak for themselves in his column. That's all that Cindy Sheehan is doing, and the people waiting with her in Crawford are doing it, too. That's why it's not just one voice down there, speaking for the rest. It's a bunch of voices. And the YDSFM,C crowd is just going to add another bunch of voices, until no one can understand what anyone else is saying.

Monday, August 22, 2005

On wagging the dog - or, um, on not doing that

Okay, so I'm all kinds of busy today (and I hate that), so today you're just getting one of those heavily linked "Heh. Indeedy" posts. Seeing the Forest looks at the New York Times's take on Clinton and bin Laden. The article is titled "State Dept. Says It Warned About bin Laden in 1996," and Dave pulls out this quote:
"The thinking was that he was in Afghanistan, and he was dangerous, but because he was there, we had a better chance to kill him," Mr. Scheuer said. "But at the end of the day, we settled for the worst possibility - he was there and we didn't do anything." [emphasis mine]

which contrasts nicely with this 1998 Telegraph article titled, interestingly enough, Clinton strikes terrorist bases:"
THE United States launched cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan yesterday against centres allegedly linked with the terrorist bombings of two American embassies.

and even with this Times article titled, also interestingly, "U.S. Cruise Missiles Strike Sudan and Afghan Targets Tied to Terrorist Network:"
With about 75 missiles timed to explode simultaneously in unsuspecting countries on two continents, the operation was the most formidable U.S. military assault ever against a private sponsor of terrorism.

... Clinton and his national security team linked both sites to Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire tied by U.S. intelligence to the twin bombings on Aug. 7 in Kenya and Tanzania. The bombings killed 12 Americans and nearly 300 Africans.

... The president made no apologies for ordering the strikes without permission from Afghanistan or the Sudan, saying, "Countries that persistently host terrorists have no right to be safe havens."

... Clinton presented several reasons for the decision to act swiftly and forcefully, rather than to punish bin Laden through the means of diplomacy and law. Repeatedly he said bin Laden presented an imminent threat, quoting his pledge this week to wage a war in which Americans were "all targets."

'cept none of that counted, 'cause he was just wagging the dog.

Heh. Indeedy.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so my reward for putting up with Katie Couric this morning was getting to watch Michael Buble on Today's summer concert series. Good God, the man is fine as a day at the beach. And it's not the chiseled-jaw, broody-eyed celebrity kind of fine, either; it's the approachable, kind of cuddly fine that you just want to drag back to your apartment and... Aherm. Oh, look, it's my iPod! I wonder what is on it!

1. Frank Sinatra, "I Only Have Eyes For You"
2. OMD, "Electricity"
3. Jump, Little Children, "Angel Dust"
4. Aimee Mann, "You Could Make A Killing"
5. Jump, Little Children, "Close Your Eyes"
6. Ashlee Simpson, "Unreachable"
7. Sarah Brightman, "Un Jour Il Viendra"
8. Norah Jones, "I've Got To See You Again"
9. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Scar Tissue"
10. Johnny Cash, "Hey Porter"

Which all adds up to the fact that Michael is totally going to call me.

On real liberal values

Okay, so there's been a lot of talk lately about ways the Democrats can start their comebacks in 2006 and, more importantly, 2008. One of the biggest issues has been simply framing, which is the subject of George Lakoff's book Don't Think of an Elephant. Lakoff writes about how Repubs have become the party of values simply by talking about them, by endorsing life and family and freedom and safety and rainbows and puppies (well, maybe not rainbows), while Democrats tend to focus on issues like education, the environment, the war in Iraq, and the economy. It sounds good, but like the advertising axiom that people don't want to buy a shovel, they want to buy a hole, Americans don't buy issues. They buy the values that those issues represent.

Enter Paul Begala:
Such is the hatred of the far right at the dawn of the 21st Century. And my how the optical worm has turned. Today it is the left invoking faith, flag and family, while the right destroys crosses. Today it is the left that honors the war dead, raises up a Gold Star Mother and publicly prays for our troops, while the right viciously attacks a woman who gave her country everything. Today it is the left that patiently and peacefully respects the Office of the Presidency, while the right diminishes the office by claiming it's more important for the President to go bike-riding with a sports hero than comfort the mother of a war hero.

For the last two presidential elections it has been the Democratic Party whose nominee was a Vietnam War veteran, while the Republicans have sputtered out spurious defenses of their candidate's deceitful draft-dodging.

On Thursday, Dick Cheney, who said he had "other priorities" in the Vietnam era, and so helped himself to five draft deferments, will address the 73rd Convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. I do not think he will express remorse for the callousness with which he explained his cowardice. Nor do I expect him to apologize for the shocking, mocking Republicans who, at their New York Convention a year ago, sported Band-Aids with tiny purple hearts to mock the blood shed by John Kerry and so many other heroes in that misbegotten war.

No, Mr. Cheney, surrounded by body guards who would gladly give their life for him, will no doubt wrap himself in the flag. A flag Larry Chad Northern wrapped around his axle on Prairie Chapel Road.

This is an opportunity for the Democratic party. This is our opening. But we have to do it right. It's not enough to point out the hypocrisy in the right's pro-troop stance; we have to take back Patriotism. And it's not enough to point out the despicable ways that conservative columnists and bloggers have been trashing a grieving mother; we have to take back Family. Conservatives have been complaining for a while that we on the left never do anything but trash Republicans, and there's actually some truth to that. It's not enough to point out how they're wrong. We have to point out how we're right, and how we've been right for quite some time, if everyone had just paid attention.

Thanks to Atrios for the link.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On advertising to real real women

Okay, so here's an open letter to all advertisers looking to advertise to "real women:"

Dear advertisers,

A lot of you have been making an effort to abandon the traditional skeletal, airbrushed models and start using "real" women in your ads. Let me say: way to go. As a woman who is neither skeletal nor, for the most part, airbrushed, I enjoy seeing women on billboards who don't make me feel guilty about the butt that, let's face it, ain't going anywhere, no matter how hard I work out. Dove, in particular, has gotten a lot of attention for its ad campaign showing women of all sizes, shapes, and ages who are braver than I would be to pose on billboards in their undies. Y'all have been doing so well that I'm reluctant to criticize, because I don't want to put you off the idea. At the same time, though, I feel it's necessary to point out one very well-intentioned mistake, to keep you from wandering down that same path.

Nike, you know I'm talking about you.

Nike's new ad campaign celebrates "big butts" and "thunder thighs," which sounds like a great idea, right? In theory, sure. But allow me to give you a little perspective straight from your target audience - not the standard for beauty and athleticism, surely, but at least a standard for, well, standard. I'm a woman between the ages of 18 and 35. My BMI is 24. I'm three inches taller and ten pounds lighter than the "average woman." I get in my weights and my cardio five times a week, and I also, on occasion, play some (fairly decent) tennis and do some (deeply righteous) backpacking. My thighs look like this one:

Nike, that is not a thunderous thigh. That thigh isn't even the sound an old Chevy makes when you try to crank it on a cold morning. That's a normal thigh. That's not Kirstie Alley's thigh; that's the thigh of a normal, healthy, almost-athletic young woman. And while your attempt to glamorize the "normal" body is admirable, you're not going to make anyone feel better by telling them that their "normal" body is, for the record, enormous.

So, advertisers, here's the secret to using "normal" women in your ads: treat them like normal women. They're not beautiful despite their normalcy, they're beautiful period. Imagine that you're using your ad copy as a pickup line in a bar. Telling a woman that she's finer than a summer day might just get you a date; telling a woman that she's got big ol' flabby thighs, but you think they sexy, will probably get you smacked with a handbag.

Oh, and Jamie, putting your hand on a woman's leg and exclaiming, "Whoa, there, quadzilla"? Not a compliment.

Much love,

Monday, August 15, 2005

On evolution - this one goes out to Steve

Okay, so proponents of Intelligent Design claim that not only is it a viable scientific theory (to which I must reply, um, nuh-uh) but that they have a list with over 300 names of doctors who "Dissent From Darwin" and insist that evolution is a joke, all evidence to the contrary.

Enter Project Steve.

Project Steve is an effort by the National Center for Science Education to promote the teaching of actual science in science classes. Their statement reads as follows:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
and is endorsed by, as of July of this year, 577 biologists (which make up about two-thirds of the list), science educators, medical researchers, etc. All of whom are named Steve.

Well, all of them could be named Steve. The list has been generously left open to Stephens, Stevens, Stefans, and yes, of course, Stephanies. The NCSE figures that Steves make up about 1 percent of the US population, and thus their sample of Steves, assuming that there isn't some bizarre concentration of evolution-loving Steves in the scientific community, represents about 57,700 scientists who support the modern take on evolutionary biology.

So the next time you're confronted by an ID nutjob chanting, "I didn't come from a monkey," just remind him that 577 Steves agree: Intelligent Design is a crock.

Friday, August 12, 2005

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so... I got nothin'. Here it is:

1. Madonna, "Frozen"
2. Annie Sellick, "Give Me The Simple Life"
3. Les Nubians, "Bebela"
4. Astrud Gilberto, "Here's That Rainy Day"
5. Chad & Jeremy, "A Summer Song"
6. Kula Shaker, "Tattva"
7. Guster, "So Long"
8. Patti LaBelle, "Lady Marmalade"
9. Garbage, "I Think I'm Paranoid"
10. Kristen Barry, "Ordinary Life"

And now, a quest for my reader(s): I'm trying to put together, as a gift for a friend, a compilation CD about bitches. The problem is that she's a country music fan, and to my knowledge, most country singers are far too polite to ever sing about a bitch unless a) she just got squished under the porch of his trailer, along with his other three hounds, or b) it's preceded by "sonofa."

Do country singers ever sing about bitches?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On quick Wednesday funnies

Okay, so a friend of mine was just about to leave to get her much-anticipated boob job when the phone rang. It was her husband, calling to let her know that the truck they'd been bidding for on e-bay was theirs.

Said my friend, "Wow, honey, you've got to be the luckiest man in the world. You got a truck and your wife's getting a lift kit in the same day."

I just about wet myself laughing.

On borrowed youth

Okay, so since I no longer have Bill Hemmer and those hot little Clark Kent glasses to brighten my day every morning, I've been forced to look to other sources for my weather, traffic, and occasional entertainment drivel. And like a dog who gets smacked every time but keeps chewing on the azaleas, dammit, I turn on the Today Show.

This morning, Katie was handing out advice for not-young people on how to stay young by embracing technology, dressing young, and hanging out with young people. This segment could have been titled "How To Embarrass Your Children In Five Easy Steps." Don't get me wrong - I have no problem with older people feeling youthful and vibrant. I think it's a great thing, and I like to think that I'll still be youthful when I hit middle age. But there's a difference between "youthful" and "childish," and if you've seen Amy Poehler's character in Mean Girls, you know what I mean.

Take, by contrast, my parents. They are (and they'll back me up on this) not in their twenties. Or thirties, for that matter. But they've got to be some of the most youthful people I've met. My dad exercises regularly, acts in all kinds of plays, and turns into a seven-year-old when you take him to an air show (honestly, it's really cute). Mom plays tennis (and can pull off those short little skirts better than I can), delivers Meals On Wheels in her little convertible, dresses well, listens to music not written by James Taylor, and has been known to tell jokes that make me blush. Together, they've taken lessons in salsa and swing dancing. My parents are actually fun to hang out with. If I'm home for a weekend, I'm more likely to have fun than to not have fun.

Part of this is because my parents recognize that I'm an adult. The other part is because they recognize that they're adults. My dad doesn't have a Corvette. My mom doesn't wear halter tops or mini skirts (that don't come attached to tennis bloomers, anyway). Neither has attempted to use the "youthful lingo" without the necessary self-deprecating irony. They recognize something that far too few people realize these days: that once you hit fifty, you'll never be twenty again, no matter how hard you try, and that the more you do to look like you're twenty, the more you're calling attention to the fact that you're not.

So now, to counteract the evil that Katie Couric has let loose on the world, is the real fountain of youth: How To Stay Youthful Without Alienating Your Children And/Or Making A Fool Out Of Yourself.

1. If you don't know what the lyrics are saying, don't try to embrace the music. A fifty-year-old woman saying, "That's dope, G. I'm smackin' the hos and gettin' crunk, yo?" Embarrassing, not youthful.

2. Skin covered should be directly proportional to age. You don't have to dress like a nun or a piano teacher, but scoop-neck tops are for those without turkey waddles and a boat-neck is just as attractive (and far more flattering). By the time you're eighty, you really shouldn't be in anything shorter than cropped pants and three-quarter sleeves - even during the summer, in Florida. That's why God invented linen.

3. Wraparound sunglasses are not okay. Need prescription glasses? Get prescription lenses put into a pair of classic - not trendy - frames.

4. Pleated pants are not okay. On anyone. This is another case where trying to hide something only emphasizes it more. Find a pair of flat-front pants that actually fit, and you'll have knocked off ten pounds and ten years. Don't question; just do as I say. (Similarly, tapered legs are right out; find a nice straight leg or slight bootcut to balance out those hips there, Mother Ginger.)

5. Women, recognize that your complexion tends to wash out as you age. That means that the makeup and hair color that made you look like Faye Dunaway when you were 25 now make you look like Estelle Harris. Go to a salon, an actual salon, and have a professional choose colors for you that are actually found in nature.

6. Men, bald heads are dead sexy. Combovers? Not even a little bit sexy. If you find yourself maneuvering the remaining 50 percent of your hair to cover the other 50 percent of your scalp, you're fighting a losing battle and need to just go ahead and shave it off. Any hairstyle that relies purely on the support of styling products is right out (that goes for women, too).

7. Listen to your kids. If your daughter says to you, "Mom, your hair looks like a St. Louis Rams helmet circa 1965," or your son says, "Dad, you're wearing a short-sleeved Madras plaid shirt and it has to stop," don't argue. Don't. Don't.

8. If you feel the need to get a little bit of work done, go for it. Just don't expect it to literally take years off. There's nothing wrong with lifting a few sagging features or tightening up some skin or putting your boobs back where they started, but if your forehead doesn't move, or you've got that perpetually surprised look, you've gone too far. And once you've gotten the work done, you're still sixty, so don't think that you're now free to pull out that halter top. Still not okay.

9. Spending time with young people is a great way to feel youthful and energetic yourself. Bond with your kids. Listen to their music with them. See their movies with them. Take them to a football game. Take them out to dinner and talk with them. And then when they want to go hit the bars or go to a club? Don't go with them. Go home, turn on the Britcoms on PBS, and hope the kids are having a good time. If you have grandkids, put one on each knee and read The Phantom Tollbooth with them. You'll feel young, and the kids will love you for it.

10. Realize that it's okay to get older. The alternative? Far less pleasant. There's no shame in hitting middle age and keeping going. And you can stay youthful - right up to the point when you try to be young. Wear low-rise jeans and stilettos to the movies and you'll be "that old chick dressed like Britney Spears" (as soon as the gagging subsides); wear some nice flat-front pants and sleeveless polo shirt, and all eyes will be on the guy stretching a Metallica muscle shirt over his beer gut.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

On pleasant trips and safe returns

Okay, so I've returned, largely unscathed, from a most enjoyable visit with friends in Nawfolk. Normal blogging will resume as soon as I've addressed this great big pile of work that somehow appeared on my formerly clean desk.

Oh, and to anyone who received a text message Sunday night reading, "Tequila. Oh, the humanity," just... That was... Yeah, sorry 'bout that.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On Friday Random Ten - 'cept, you know, Thursday

Okay, so I figure it's better a day early than four days late. I'm heading out of town this weekend early-early tomorrow morning, and if you think I'm getting up extra early-early just to get my Random Ten posted, you're crazy. Just crazy enough, in fact, to be a regular reader of Practically Harmless. Mazel.

1. Shakira, "Underneath Your Clothes"
2. Dido, "Here With Me (remix)"
3. Frederic Chopin, "Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor"
4. Chris Brann, "Slo Motion"
5. Sarah Brightman, "Deliver Me"
6. Evanescence, "Solitude"
7. Serge Gainsbourg, "L'eau a la Bouche"
8. Diana Krall, "I Remember You"
9. Dave Matthews Band, "Proudest Monkey"
10. Blossom Dearie, "'Deed I Do."

I don't know what that says about my upcoming weekend, but that first song sounds promising.

And finally, to tide you over until my triumphant and sunburned and probably hungover return Monday night:

"Do you know how fast you were going?" the police officer asked, incredulous.
"No," Heisenberg replied, "but I know exactly where I am!"

I am such a geek.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

On intelligence and intelligent design

Okay, so President Bush has come out in support of Intelligent Design (and if anyone knows intelligence, it's George). He said that the ultimate decision should remain with the school districts, but that in his opinion, both sides should be taught "so that people can understand what the debate is about," adding that "part of education is exposing people to different schools of thought."

Believe it or not, I actually agree with the president on that last point. Exposing people to different schools of thought is a major part of education - in the right context. In literature, religion, philosophy, art, there are lots of equally valid schools of thought that should all be explored. Other areas, though, are one-school-of-thought-based. Take math class; there may be a variety of ways to solve a math problem, but if you start out disputing the fact that 5 x 5 = 25, you're going to end up with an objectively wrong answer.

And so it is with much of science. Not all of science, by any means. Science is always growing and changing, new discoveries are being made every day, and while some theories (gravity) are fairly solid, others are still being tested. If science were completely rigid, there would be no point in further experimentation, because we'd have the answers already. But there is one school of thought that science takes pretty seriously: a theory is only scientifically valid if it can be disproved.

Now, this isn't my area of expertise,* but I did take science classes and I love the Discovery channel and I remember that scientific theories must be testable. I also remember that no theory can actually be proved; it can only be tested over and over and over and over again, with the consistent result that it is not disproved. But that fact that it can be tested, that the potential for it to be disproven exists, is crucial for a theory to be scientifically valid.

Intelligent Design doesn't fit. How do you prove that a higher power didn't create or contribute to the creation of the world? How do you prove that a higher power doesn't even exist? What tests do you do? Gravity can be tested. You can throw a ball up in the air a hundred times, and as long as no other forces intervene, it'll fall right back down. If, just once, that ball doesn't fall (and no other forces have intervened), you've disproved the theory of gravity and set science on its collective nose. But you can't do that with Intelligent Design.

I personally don't have a problem with ID. I happen to believe it. As a Catholic, I certainly believe in the existence of a higher power, and I think it's more than likely that he had a hand in the changes over time demonstrated by evolution. But I realize that ID is a theory that requires faith, the belief in a higher power, in conjunction with disprovable science, and I just can't justify that being taught in schools. There's no reason that parents can't teach their kids whatever they want regarding the origins of life, and there's no reason that teachers can't say, "Now, your parents might have different and perfectly valid feelings on the subject, but for our purposes, this is how life began." But science class is for science, and ID just plain doesn't qualify.

*That one's for you, Daddy. You're the scientist here; feel free to correct me on this, or to tell me how shocked you are that I actually got it right.