Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On war for me, but not for thee

Okay, so I know these have all been posted elsewhere, but I thought I'd put them up for anyone who hasn't run across them yet. Besides, you might need them in the future, and now you know just where to look.

"You can support the troops but not the president." -Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
-Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President... is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy." Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

“American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy.” Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy.” Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W. Bush

“I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning…I didn’t think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.” Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

“Well, I just think it’s a bad idea. What’s going to happen is they’re going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years” Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

“I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today” Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.” Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

“This is President Clinton’s war, and when he falls flat on his face, that’s his problem.” Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)

“Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly.” Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

Quotes cribbed from Sadly, No!, The Poor Man, Republic of Dogs and others.

Monday, November 28, 2005

On shifting goals

Okay, so yesterday at the This Week roundtable, George Stephanopoulos raised the question of whether or not President Bush should admit that he's made a mistake in the prosecution of the Iraq war. Jay Carney of TIME magazine made the valid point that since the administration keeps rounding the corners off the ultimate objective, Bush will never need to apologize. If he can convince people that where we are is where we wanted to be in the first place, he won't have to apologize for not being where he actually said we would be.

For the record, I don't think that George Bush should admit to making a mistake, and I've got three reasons. One is that I think it would be bad for the war effort. I know, that sounds exactly like what the wacky neocons keep saying as a defense against any criticism lobbed their way, and what makes it worse is that I can't even defend my position on this one. It's literally a gut feeling; I think about George Bush getting on national TV and admitting to having made a mistake, and my stomach goes all squidgy. Of course, every time Bush speaks publicly, I get that squidgy-stomach feeling, usually in response to some dumbass thing he's said or another.

The second reason is that I don't think it would actually help anything. Think about it: He admits he made a mistake. The neocons wig out, which I'll admit would be amusing, but not terribly productive. The Dems point fingers and shout, "I told you!" Rove spins the story like a top until it looks like Bush was actually nobly taking the fall for someone else's mistake. Thirty-six percent of Americans continue to believe Bush can do no wrong. Dick Cheney eats a baby. The government is in chaos (more than usual, I mean), and nothing has been accomplished because having said the words, Bush would think he'd done quite enough. Saying it doesn't change anything.

The third reason is that he could look me square in the eye and say the words to me, and I still wouldn't believe he really meant them.

Here's what I would like to hear from Bush, and I mean from his mouth, not through some press release or some other member of the administration: "The time has come to change directions." Doesn't that sound like a nice, safe, everybody-wins phrase? "The time has come to change directions." It doesn't come out and say that yes, I screwed up, which is why we were going in the wrong direction in the first place. It just says that we were going one way, and to reach our goal, we have to now go a different way, so we're going to do that.

I had a really great metaphor here involving stairs, but I tried it out on my dad and he just pooh-poohed it and accused me of talkin' semantics. For the record, I hate that; people talk about semantics like they're little nit-picky things, insignificant details that people pound on when they have no other point to make, but y'all, semantics are important. Particularly when it comes to things like politics, where most of the hard work involves talking things out for hours and hours on end, semantics is all you've got. So if you're going to pooh-pooh my argument, pooh away, but don't do it on the basis of semantics.

Here's my second-string metaphor: Say you're in Buckhead, and you want to go to O'Terrill's. You check your map and realize that all you have to do is jump on Piedmont and head south until you cross North Avenue. So you hop in your Prius and away you go, right?

Wrong, Beverly. What your map doesn't tell you is that Piedmont turns one-way at 14th Street. You head on down and find yourself facing oncoming traffic. Whatever shall you do?

Well, you could find a parking space on 14th, go into the Prince of Wales, find a table and declare, "My goal was to eat dinner, and now I have reached my goal!" But you shouldn't do that, because you'd be lying, and lying is wrong. Your goal was to eat dinner at O'Terrill's.

How do you find out how to get there? You could consult your map again, but obviously it can only help you so much. Your best bet is probably to ask someone how to get there.

Once you've gotten directions, though, the important thing is to follow them. It's no good trying to go against traffic to get where you're going, and it's no good sitting in the Prince of Wales and pretending that's where you wanted to go from the beginning. You have to be willing to say, "The time has come to change directions," specifically a right onto 14th, a left onto Juniper, a left onto Pine, and another left will put you back on Piedmont, facing in the right direction.

It's not necessary to decide who was responsible for the misdirection (although it's useful, so you don't go there for directions again). It's not necessary to declare publicly, "I have made a mistake! I thought I could take Piedmont all the way down, and I was so wrong!" It's not necessary to try to push through oncoming traffic to get to your destination. It is neither necessary nor acceptable to pretend that you've reached your destination already.

All you have to do is be willing to say, "The time has come to change directions," and then make that right-hand turn. No one's saying you can't get where you want to go, but you sure as hell can't get there going the way you're going.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On gratitude

Okay, so yeah, I'm about three days late with the official Thanksgiving giving of thanks. I'll have to chalk that up to a serious bout of turkey coma, followed by a Saturday of football that was not to be disturbed for the sake of blogging.

But last night, as my brother and I were driving home from the game and I was in a particularly thankful mood, I settled down to think about the whole gratitude thing. It's really easy to slap down the usual Thanksgiving dreck about being grateful for family and health and prosperity. Not that that sort of thing doesn't count, mind you - my family is precious to me beyond the telling of it, I really am grateful for my health (particularly when I'm doped up to the point that I'm actually feeling healthy), and while my prosperity is still really at the how-many-ways-can-I-prepare-ramen stage (so much for that whole "grownup with a job" thing), I appreciate the fact that there are people living sub-ramen lifestyles, people for whom a leak-free one-bedroom apartment with electric heat and a stove for cooking ramen would be like a day at the Ritz. But those aren't once-a-year graces. If you're only giving thanks for those things one day out of the year, you're missing out, because they're real and crucial, and you should be thanking whatever power you recognize for the blessings you have.

What about the stuff that's not mentioned in your average ABC Thanksgiving special? It can be hard to dig up. Not to slap a great big downer into the middle of what could be an entirely uplifting post, but the spirit of our country right now is absolute shite. Disasters take place, and the voices of people who want to help actually have to fight to be heard over the voices of people who want to blame and/or abandon the victims. Our government is currently debating whether or not it's okay to torture people as a matter of policy. Politicians and their loony mindless followers stand up to loudly profess their love of Jesus Christ, then turn around and berate the poor for not having the initiative to get themselves rich. I find myself wondering sometimes - on a national and/or global scale, what in God's name do we have to be thankful for?

And then I come home for a long weekend. My mom, in case you haven't picked up from earlier posts, is my best friend and my inspiration. She donates everything from her money to her possessions to her own personal blood to those who need them, she gives her time to deliver Meals On Wheels or administer communion to shut-ins, and when she's not doing that, she's looking for something else to do for someone else. Mom is how I ended up at Miss Mattie's house on Friday, helping my parents and my brother staple contractor's plastic around her screened porch to keep the heat in.

Mom doesn't look for recognition for the things she does; she thinks it cheapens the act (so don't go telling her I've posted about it). All she really wants is for other people to look around, to be aware of all of the things that can be done and the people who need help, and then take the time to do it. She's told me that what she really wants is for fortunate people, people like us who have even a little bit, to judge people not on what they've done but on what they need, to look beyond the reason for a person's situation and see a solution to it. Jesus, Mom says, never turned anyone away who sincerely wanted help, regardless of their situation, and if we're going to claim to be Christians, we're obliged to follow His lead.

The very existence of people like my mother - and my father, who takes in probably more low-income patients than he can afford, and my brother, who would be embarrassed if I started going on about his good deeds and claims to do them out of Catholic guilt anyway, and so many friends and acquaintances - steadies me when I start to really freak out about the condition of the world. No matter what is going on out there, there are at least a few, more than a few, people in here who actually want to do good for other people, and beyond that want to entice other people to do good for other people. Nothing we do today can ruin what we have the potential to do in the future, as long as there are people around who think about more than themselves and who make the rest of us do the same. As long as there's one person realizing that a world exists outside of herself, then there's hope. And if all you have is hope, you have a lot to be thankful for.

On a helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva interception on second and goal

Okay, so I've gotta give it to Georgia Tech: they make for a good football game. Especially since the best football games are the ones we win! Dayum! And their defense was absolutely en fuego last night, holding us to only 14 points, one touchdown per half. Which was still seven points too many for them! Snap! And they really did have a great sense of humor in the week leading up to the big game, which shows real class. I bet they're regretting that right about now! Ouch! Also, being the proud owner of a ticket to the ACC championships in Jacksonville on December 3, I'm grateful to GT for their victory over Miami, which launched Virginia Tech into their championship seat. Sorry you won't be there yourselves, suckers! Punked!

Enough of all that. My parents raised me well, and they taught me that being a good winner is just as important as being a good loser. To that end, my gift to Georgia Tech, a poem by Sean Connery on SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy.

"Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I can't remember the rest, but your mother's a whore.

Suck it, Trebek."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

On getting what you voted for

Okay, so the most recent scandalicious scandal in the House of Representatives has to be Rep. Jean "Mean Jean" Schmidt and her complete inability to think before she lets the words out of her mouth. Rep. John P. Murtha, retired Marine and veteran of Korea and Vietnam, suggested that maybe withdrawing our troops from Iraq might keep them from getting killed all the time. Mean Jean had this to say in response:
A few minutes ago, I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.


If you didn't get to watch it on the news, you missed out. The noises coming out of that chamber were more British Parliament than House of Representatives. Mean Jean was forced to strike her own comments from the congressional record and write an "I'm sorry I'm a bitch" note to Murtha.

But dagnabbit, that's just not enough for some people. She said she wasn't trying to impugn his character, didn't she? Jeez. And yet the e-mails and phone calls keep pouring in. Mean Jean had this to say in response:
I am quite willing to suffer those attacks if in the end that policy I so strongly oppose is exposed as unsound. First and foremost, I support the troops. They dodge bullets and bombs while I duck only hateful words.

Sniff, sniff. Yes, Jean, you will endeavor to persevere. You're a rock. A rock! You go ahead and support those troops, with their bullet-dodging and their bomb-ducking, and screw that coward who wanted to take them away from, um, the bullets. And the bombs.

Of course, at least the troops have their buddies out their dodging the bullets and bombs along with them. Mean Jean only has Danny Bubp, who was the one who actually called Murtha a coward.

Except for the not calling him a coward part:
The comments and concerns I shared with Congresswoman Schmidt were never meant as a personal reference to Mr. Murtha. . . . We never discussed anyone by name and there was no intent to ever disparage the congressman or his distinguished record of service for our nation.

Gettin' cold out there, Jean?

Well-known blogger and former Matt Damon paramour ACG had this to say in response:
Paul Hackett, y'all. You did this to yourselves.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On blaming the victim

Okay, so I hate to get all serious when there's a holiday and a good football rivalry coming up, but sometimes, it's unavoidable. Courtesy of a bunch of different news sources, it appears that rape is still the woman's fault in some people's minds:
One in three Britons believes a woman who flirts is partly or totally responsible if she is raped, a "shocking" opinion poll showed on Monday.

Between a third and a quarter of respondents also put part or all of the blame on the woman if she fails to say "no" clearly to the man, wears sexy clothes, drinks too much, has many sexual partners and walks alone in a deserted area.

I guess the point of an anonymous opinion poll is that people are comfortable being completely honest, but you'd think that this is another one of those questions where you know better than to actually say it, even if you feel that way. It's like hearing that one-quarter of Americans support the wholesale stomping of puppies; sure, some people stomp puppies, but do you actually admit to it?

I almost feel like I don't have to go into all of the reasons that a woman isn't responsible for rape, since it seems so obvious and I know I've gone into it a dozen times before. But maybe it isn't that obvious. It isn't obvious to 34% of Britons, apparently, and I'm sure they have an equal number of American counterparts. So here goes:

Men, keep your penises to yourselves.

Should be as far as anyone has to go, really. If every man took that as personal policy, then man-on-woman rape would drop 100%. Drunk or sober, dressed like a stripper or like a nun, any woman would be safe from the threat of rape if men wouldn't feel entitled to stick Willie where he isn't welcome. My favorite rant is The One About Entitlement Complexes, and I'll save it for another post, but that'll certainly be part of it: men, you are not entitled to have sex with me without my permission. I don't care if I'm wearing crotchless panties with a bullseye painted on the back.

Do women have the obligation to look out for ourselves? Sure we do, as much as anyone has the obligation to look both ways before crossing the street and wear a coat when it's cold out. But if, for whatever reason, we don't take that precaution, any resulting violence isn't automatically our fault. If I cross the street on green in a crosswalk, I should expect to do so safely; if, in the process I get pasted by a truck running a red light, the driver of the truck is completely at fault, whether or not I look both ways.

I hate to take this to a Pandagon kind of place, but the issue here is men who view women as nothing more than a walking sperm receptacle. Let me take a moment to speak to them directly: A woman walks into a bar in a short skirt and tall shoes, she lets you buy her a drink and makes flirty conversation with you, and your automatic assumption is that she's absolutely gagging for it. And if she isn't, she ought to be. And if she doesn't want it when you do, you'll take it anyway. Sex isn't something you do with a woman, it's something you do to a woman, something you take from a woman, and a little bit of cleavage or a little bit of conversation is just a billboard advertising what she has to offer. If she has a little bit to drink, rendering herself unable to fight off your advances, that just means that she doesn't want to fight them off, right? Otherwise, she wouldn't drink, right?

Jesus, God.

To bring Pandagon into this anyway, one commenter on a recent post brought up the old Chris Rock joke about how "if you run up to someone dressed up in a police costume asking for help, he has no right to be offended. The woman dressed in the midriff has no right to be offended when people come up to her with a certain set of expectations about her character." And everyone was hella offended, which was pretty much the reaction that Chris Rock is going for in any of his comedy routines. That's why he's so funny. But the best way to strip the funny right out of any joke is to analyse it, and that's just what I did, coming to this conclusion:
Against his better judgment, though, I think he did have a little bit of a point. If you're having chest pains, you look for a guy dressed like a doctor. If he says, "Sorry, I'm not a doctor, I'm an off-duty stripper," you apologize for bothering him and go in search of a doctor. If want to see a stripper, you look for the girl in the butt-cheek-baring miniskirt and Velcro bustier. If she says, "Sorry, I'm not a stripper, I'm an off-duty doctor," you apologize and go in search of a stripper.

The difference is that just because the woman is dressed like a stripper, you can't automatically expect her to strip for you if she doesn't want to. For better or for worse, people will assume things about you if you go out dressed in certain things. But that's where it has to end; a guy can make all the assumptions he wants if you're going to the mall in a droopy tube top and exposed thong, but if he actually touches you, he's absolutely, 100% in the wrong.

When I'm at a bar (or at a tailgate, for that matter) and I see a woman walking in busting with cleavage or sporting a two-inches-shy-of-being-a-belt skirt, I automatically make assumptions about her. I usually think, "Wow, she has no class whatsoever" or "Well, there's a girl who doesn't care what people think about her." If I went out dressed like that, I'd expect people to be making similar assumptions. It wouldn't be a shock, I'm sure, to learn that guys were assuming that I was easy or always up for it. And they can go ahead and assume. But the moment they act on those assumptions, they're absolutely and unequivocally in the wrong.

I recall one of the three occasions when I've gotten irresponsibly drunk ("irresponsibly drunK" defined as "too drunk to look out for myself, in the presence of people who can't be depended on to look out for me"). It was an evening that involved Long Island Ice Teas that didn't stay down and kind roommates who packed me into a cab along with five Marines from the nearby Supply School. Was the drunk girl in the little black going-out dress a recipe for a fun night? Very possibly; I was certainly incapable of defending myself against five guys. But I didn't have to, because they didn't take my drunken helplessness as an invitation.

Every time I think back on what could have happened, I shudder. I acted stupidly that night (and way to look out for your friend, roomies, btw), and it's not behavior that I've repeated. But if my cabmates had been less honorable than they were, that would have been their fault. The only reason that a drunken girl wouldn't make it safely home in a cab is that someone would decide to take advantage of her.

(The pleasant coda to that story, by the way, is that when we pulled over at Firehouse, one of the guys slipped the cab driver a twenty and said to me, very carefully and distinctly, "We've got your cab fare, okay? Take care of yourself." They then went into the bar without laying a hand on me. Thanks for that, guys)

This blame-the-victim mentality isn't generally applied to other crimes. If a man is walking through downtown Atlanta after a show at the Fox, and he gets robbed at gunpoint, no one ever says, "He was asking for it! He was walking in downtown Atlanta in a damn tuxedo!" If someone's car gets stolen out of their driveway, no one says, "Well, parking a BMW on the street, what did he expect to happen?" Yet "that halter top just screamed 'do me'" is acceptable after a rape.

That reaction is nothing more than men abrogating their responsiblity to freaking control themselves. These men would have women walk around in bulky turtlenecks and riding skirts, sipping on club soda, just so they're never faced with temptation that they might have to tamp down. "I have no self-control! I can't resist the urge to do bad things! You can't dress the way you want or drink alcohol because deep down, I'm a raging beast!" is not an acceptable defense for rape.

I'd like to know what y'all think. Throw down in comments, and feel free to comment anonymously, if you think your opinions might be flameworthy; I really want to know how you honestly feel about this. Can a woman really be held responsible for a man's lack of self-control? Do a short skirt and/or excessive consumption of alcohol lay any blame on a rape victim?

Friday, November 18, 2005

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so is it a goal of the producers of ER to have every woman on the show sleep with Dr. Kovac before the end of this season? Not that I can blame them, of course. But if it is, in fact, an official policy, I need to see about getting cast as an extra. Maybe a nurse on her first day, overwhelmed and in desperate need of comfort?

Oh, my. I... I find myself feeling faint...

Actually, funny story there: the excitement du jour yesterday involved blood donation and, apparently, not enough juice afterwards. I've just donated (my eighteenth pint, for the record), I'm stopping off at Subway for a six-inch oven-roasted chicken (no cheese), and I start to feel woozy. By the time I've paid, I'm feeling seriously woozy, and the last thing I remember as I put the change in my purse is my vision going tunnely and a little voice in the back of my head saying, "You seem tired. You should really go to sleep... rightnow."

The next thing I know, I'm waking up and staring at the ceiling as a dozen people around me freak out. They very kindly picked me up, put me in a chair, and got me water. The manager even gave me a free cookie ("The sugar, is good for you, make you feel better," he said in his charming ethnic way). I'm just kind of ticked off because the guy in front of me had left already. Dude, the time to order five foot-long subs with everything is on the phone before you get there. If you'd ordered a six-inch turkey sub, I might have made it back to my office.

I've got the whole weekend to recover, though. I'll be blowing off work half a day early to spent the weekend in Alabama with the Alabama relatives, the parents, and this other guy. The fun will certainly be in the watching of Daddy and his baby sis in the throes of football rivalry, but UVA football wouldn't be UVA football without Mom doing the Wahoo Dance. Love ya, Aunt B, but I've never seen you shake it like that after a touchdown. And what am I going to be listening to on the ride over? Here's a random sampling of, oh, let's say ten tracks:

1. Diana Krall, "I Love Being Here With You"
2. Dusty Springfield, "Son of a Preacher Man"
3. Monteverdi, "Ecco pur c'a voi ritorno" fom "L'Orfeo, Favola in Musica"
4. Garth Brooks, "Rodeo"
5. Soul Asylum, "Runaway Train"
6. George Harrison, "I've Got My Mind Set on You"
7. Kay Starr, "(I Would Do) Anything For You"
8. Diana Krall, "All or Nothing At All"
9. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, "Nowhere to Run"
10. Shakira, "The One"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

On the fat suit: fall's new hot trend

Okay, so Katie Couric must have been wicked pissed when she saw that Entertainment Tonight had scooped them on their newest make-America-aware ploy: dress a skinny chick up in a fat suit and put it on TV.

I won't even go into how insulting and patronizing it must be for a heavy person to watch 125-pound Vanessa Minnillo shuck her fat suit and say, "I had no idea how hard it is to be fat! People, like, stare at you. I have so much sympathy for fat people now. I'm so glad I'm skinny again." I just wanted to address the insane lack of self-awareness apparent in the Today Show's model-turned-fat-girl, who said, "I just had no idea that the world is so superficial, that people would treat me that differently because of the way I looked."

My educational moment of the day: Buttercup, you are a model. Maybe the agency didn't tell you this when you signed up, but people hire you based on the way you look. This is coming from one of the people responsible for hiring people like you: do you honestly think we're looking at your abilities? Your ability to fit into the samples, sure. Your ability to pose is good, and your ability to look sultry, happy, angry or bored on command. Stylists aren't looking to hire smart girls. Why? Smart girls tend to have ideas, which is bad. We like our models just smart enough to follow instructions without asking a lot of questions. So yeah, you're treated differently because of the way you look.

And That's One to Grow On.

I'm still confused, though, as to how these exercises in temporary obesity are supposed to help people. Katie's version was part of a series called "How Does It Feel?" where they put people in sinking cars or houses aflame so they know what it feels like. Apparently, their research didn't reach deeply enough to learn that a good two-thirds of Americans already know what it feels like to be overweight. It doesn't even really help in terms of self-awareness; Vanessa Minnillo did make a connection between the discrimination she experienced during her fatness and the discrimination she experienced as a racial minority growing up, but the Today Show's model really just seemed to learn that she, like, totally prefers being skinny. It is, it would seem, bitchin'.

Could it be that the road to acceptance and sympathy (and I'm not saying that someone at an unhealthy weight shouldn't work to lose or gain to a healthy weight, but there's no need to be mean about it) might just be paved with more than a waif in a bulky, awkward fat suit? I kept holding out for this deeper message, something about the growing obesity epidemic and ways to address it, or size discrimination, or even dressing to flatter your shape or something. But all we got was cute lil' Vanessa saying that she got hit on when she was skinny but not when she was fat. Wow. Let me find a suitable container for my shock.

I guess another thing that bugged me was the fact that, as a quasi-respectable news personality, Katie Couric should have known better. Sure, she's no Peter Jennings, but she is a) a woman, b) working in broadcast, and c) expected to be fairly aware of the world around her, so more than anyone she should be able to make the connection between media and body image. The women working in the entertainment industry are exposed to nothing but an unnatural standard of beauty that says that Nicole Kidman + wife-beater tank top + cigarette * bad Maine accent = homely. Katie gets to see the real world. Katie should be able to say, "Part of the reason the cameras are pointed at me is that I'm tiny and pretty, and I recognize that if I were as smart as I am and looked like Rosie O'Donnell, I'd be editing copy for Wake Up Charlottesville right now." But instead, she sat aghast to hear a waifish redhead tell her that when she's skinny, she gets catcalls, and when she was fat, they were yelling other things.

All of this is one reason that I'm scrambling and clawing to find a job outside of the fashion industry. I actually had to sit down with our stylist a few weeks ago and ask that she hire older models for our photo shoots (in our world, "older" means "up to 25;" any older than that and you're looking at "mature"). It seems that our last shoot included a 13-year-old girl who, when shot in capri pants and a halter top, looked very much like a 13-year-old in capri pants and a halter top; and two flat-chested 16-year-olds modeling bras. Our darling, adorable, petite stylist blinked at me a couple of times and said, "Are you sure? Their skin doesn't usually shoot as well as the younger girls."

There you have it. Women my age are nigh-on unhireable because we don't have the skin of a prepubescent girl. That, however, wasn't too much of a surprise to me when I started at this job. What was a surprise was the fact that I, as a writer, as one who would never appear in a photo shoot or represent any kind of fashion line in any way, would be held to similar standards. Now, I happen to come equipped with boobs and a butt, tamed through diet and exercise to look pretty good in a pair of jeans and avoid the threat of the dreaded "overweight." But a recent awards ceremony found me in need of an evening gown, which is easy enough to borrow from a designer if you happen to be sample size. Which is pretty much expected. Which I am, on a good day, after a lengthy illness, before lunch, in certain designers. After a particularly complimentary article, designers have been known to send a top or a nice pair of pricey jeans with a thank-you note; when I say "size medium" and receive a shirt that a Cabbage Patch Kid would find clingy, something isn't right.

The effort to find some kind of reasonable perspective when it comes to body image is going to take the cooperation of, well, everybody. The fashion and entertainment industries have their work cut out for them; glamorizing a certain body type is to be expected, but they (okay, we) have gotten to the point where any body type other than that of an underweight 25-year-old working out for four hours a day and eating pre-packaged Zone meals is presented as the norm. I was chuffed to see a pleasant, slightly plump Renee Zellweger in a movie trailer until I discovered that she was supposed to be the chubby-beyond-belief Bridget Jones. Hollywood puts an average-sized woman on the big screen and tell all of the average-sized women in the audience, "By, the way, she's fat to the point of neurosis" and then wonders why women have body image issues?

The rest of the effort, though, is on the rest of us. Men, in particular, need to make sure that they have realistic expectations for the female form. Lusting after celebrities is to be expected; Angelina Jolie wouldn't wear a vinyl bustier in a movie if she didn't want audience members to drool. Hell, I thought that was hot, and I'm straight. But if you're expecting every woman out there to have a figure as solid as Angelina Jolie's, you're going to be a sad, sad, lonely man.

Finally, women. We are such bitches. Fat Suit Exposes tend to focus on male reactions to the faux-obesity, but the fact is, women are tougher critics than any man out there. I'm not likely to find a date at any work event I attend; the fashion industry isn't exactly busting with heterosexual men. But I'll spend hour figuring out what to wear, because I know that these women will tear me to pieces and that, as a journalist, I can even lose access to certain contacts who don't feel that I'd "really have appropriate appreciation for the line." Jesus. Ladies, next time you're nit-picking another woman, you think back to the Tuesday underpants you put on this morning and wonder why you're feeling all superior.

Sidenote: This is as good a time as any to kick off what I'm calling Operation: Find ACG A Non-Sucky Job. At least, that's what I'm calling it until I can find some really kicky acronym. All I'm looking for is a job that exercises my writing talents, pays the bills and doesn't require me to throw up my food or disguise my contempt for Tom Ford. Keep me posted, y'all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

On happy holiday memories

Okay, so I cannot express how chuffed I was to find an MSN search for slovak crescent nut filled cookies pointing to my blog. I just find it interesting, because while I've never actually posted about "slovak crescent nut filled cookies" before, this is the perfect place to end up, 'cause I happen to know exactly what Slovak Cookie Searcher From Ontario was looking for.

The cookies are called Kolacky, my aunt and mother make them by the bucketload every Christmas, and I absolutely despise them. The cookies, I mean. Mom always makes them with minced nuts, and the end result (through no fault of her own; it's inherent in the cookie) is a pastry so dry that a glass of milk is required for swallowing purposes. I'm thinking of suggesting poppyseeds or apricots this year.

Regardless of the aridity of the cookies, however, I eat them just as fast as Mom can make themm because to me, dry-ass kolacky is the taste of Christmas. Thus I share with you, dear reader(s), and you, Slovak Cookie Searcher From Ontario, my recipe for kolacky. Mom, Aunt G., feel free to correct anything in need of correction; your mileage may vary.
Kolacky: The Filling
* 2 1/2 lb. chopped nuts (walnuts or other)
* 1 1/2 box powdered sugar
* 8 egg whites
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 tablespoon cinnamon
* milk, enough to make the filling spread easily

Mix all ingredients well in bowl.

Kolacky: The Pastry
*2 pkg. active dry yeast
*1/4 c. warm water
*7 c. flour
*1 tsp. salt
*2 c. butter, soft
*4 eggs, beaten
*2 c. whipping cream

In small bowl, dissovle yeast in warm water. In large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in yeast, egg and whipping cream. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; refrigerate until firm, 6 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on sugared surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 3 inch squares. Spoon 1 teaspoon filling in center of each square. Bring up two opposite corners to center; pinch together tightly to seal. Fold sealed tip to one side; pinch to seal. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Serve with milk, coffee, cocoa, or a nice glass of sherry. Don't say I never gave you anything.

On petty, vindictive little fun-fun-fun

Okay, so how did I miss this? Skippy the Bush Kangaroo has news about a Google bomb attack on Bill O'Reilly following his suggestion that al Qaeda blow up San Francisco.

Was it just the usual harmless stupidity that so freely flows from the gaping and profane maw of Bill O'Reilly? Sure it was. But I've never missed an opportunity to point out what a tool the man is, and I'm not about to start now. That's why I'm so utterly chuffed that he's finally recognized by Google as a terrorist sympathizer.

"A terrorist sympathizer?!" you say. Yes, a terrorist sympathizer.

The big question, of course, is why I feel the need to jump on the train now that the Google bomb has already effectively labeled O'Reilly as a terrorist sympathizer. And the answer is that he's making a list. Bill O'Reilly is making a list of all the blogs that have "launched a campaign to get [him] fired over [his] point of view." He calls them anti-military smear merchants and guttersnipes, and I want on that list. I want on that list. From the darkest depths of my soul, I want it.

I mean, I can't think of a great compliment than to be an official enemy of an inane, loudmouth, intolerant, blowhard, conceited, self-important falafelling terrorist sympathizer.

Update: What was I thinking? Must have been the medication. What I meant to say was, "Plesae, oh please, Mr. O'Reilly, leave me off your scary list. I'm begging you, Mr. O'Reilly, don't throw me in that briar patch."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On your religious beliefs vs. my uterus

Okay, so I addressed this topic about five months ago, and at the time, I was kind of fence-straddley on the whole issue. My position has solidified quite a bit since then. Just in time, too, because as John tells us at AmericaBlog, Target is now allowing its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B emergency contraception. For those who don’t know, Plan B isn’t an abortion pill; it simply a more concentrated dose of the same hormone found in many birth control pills; it stops ovulation or, when ovulation has already occurred, prevents the egg from becoming fertilized or, when fertilization has already occurred, prevents the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, which only happens fifty percent of the time anyway.

Just in case anyone was wondering: pro-lifers make lousy abortion doctors. Quadruplegics aren’t the greatest construction workers. Vegetarians make bad butchers, Quakers aren’t the best soldiers, agoraphobics tend to be poor bus drivers, and someone needs to tell Donald Trump not to be a sex therapist. If your religious beliefs prohibit you from filling prescriptions, maybe pharmacy isn’t the job for you. And if a girl comes in who was raped the night before and has this prescription for emergency contraception from her physician, and you’d rather self-righteously accuse her of wanting to kill that precious gift from God! Horrors! than fill her prescription, then pharmacy definitely isn’t the job for you.

Demure and deferential as I am, I felt the need to express the same feelings to Bob Ulrich, chairman and CEO of Target:

Dear Mr. Ulrich:

I was very disturbed to see that your company is now allowing your pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B emergency contraceptive. It’s a tough decision on your part to make, I know; I personally feel that a person’s religious beliefs shouldn’t prevent them from finding employment.

However, this issue goes farther than that, and I’m afraid it may go all the way to “if you don’t believe in distributing certain medications, don’t become a pharmacist.” It sounds kind of crass, I know, but that’s what it comes down to. Just as a person’s right to swing his fist ends at the tip of my nose, a pharmacist’s right to fill only those prescriptions that fit within his religious beliefs ends at my uterus. God forbid I should ever be the victim of rape, the last thing I’d need is a self-righteous pharmacist refusing me emergency contraception.

How far are you willing to go with Title VII? Will you allow a Catholic pharmacist to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills? Will a Scientologist pharmacist be allowed to refuse prescriptions for antidepressants? Can a Hindu clerk refuse to scan beef jerky, or can a Mormon clerk sell only caffeine-free Coke?

I have the greatest respect for the religious beliefs of others. I think that one of the strengths of this country is the fact that freedom of religion is built into its very foundation. But religious freedom, as codified in the Bill of Rights and in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, means that I will be free to practice my religion and honor my own religious beliefs; none of that gives me the right to impose my beliefs on other people.

You say that your policy “requires [your] pharmacists to take responsibility for ensuring that the guest's prescription is filled in a timely and respectful manner, either by another Target pharmacist or a different pharmacy.” The effort is appreciated, but it’s not good enough. I want a guarantee that any prescription I bring in to a Target pharmacy will be filled immediately and at that location. If you have one pharmacist who won’t fill a prescription, you should have another one available, immediately and on site, who will. Another person’s religious beliefs should not force me to wait any length of time or go to another pharmacy to get the medication a physician has decided that I need.

I hate to say it, because I love shopping at Target, but you’ve really screwed the pooch on this one. A lot of people share my feelings on this, and a lot of them are talking about a boycott. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that you made an honest mistake and are willing to rectify it. I encourage you to respect your employees’ religious beliefs, but you can only do so to the point that it interferes with my personal needs. If I can’t be sure that my prescriptions will be filled at my local Target, at the time that I visit, I’ll be forced to take my prescription, and the rest of my business, elsewhere.

A reply would be greatly appreciated.


Whether or not you plan to actually boycott Target, nothing will be accomplished if they don’t actually know how many people are, aherm, greatly displeased with their policy. Send a (thoughtful, respectful, sincere but passionate) message to CEO Robert Ulrich someone helpful, God willing at robert.ulrich@target.com guest.relations@target.com or
Target Corporation
Attn: Robert Ulrich
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403-2005

The first person to get a reply that’s more than your basic form letter wins, no kidding, a crisp $20 and a great big thank-you from Practically Harmless.

Update: Thanks to J of Red State for a Blue Girl for explaining the e-mail bounce-back mystery. As a high corporate muckety-muck, Bob Ulrich can't be contacted by the peons upon whom he depends for his salary. J suggests guest.relations@target.com as an alternative until I can find a way over/under/around/through to get to Bob directly.

Monday, November 14, 2005

On a crappy Monday Morning Random Ten

Okay, so blogging is going to be light this week because I'm bound to be drugged within an inch of incoherence. That's what kept me from my Random Ten on Friday; most of the day was spent in the doctor's office (and unless I'm just woefully ignorant of the newest patient care techniques, one hour spent on a hard wooden chair in the waiting room seems like a right lousy way to address back spasms), and the rest was spent doped up on enough Flexeril to make my eyes cross.

Doped up and incoherent, however, is a great way to be on a morning like this, 'cause the weekend held absolutely nothing more redeeming than two really impressive shots in pool and a Sunday night SNL retrospective. I'll send you over to Hey Jenny Slater for the complete recap, 'cause I don't feel like remembering it all myself, but here's the Cliffs Notes version:

1. Friday. Like, the whole day.
2. $80 + 1 faux football ticket = listening to the game from a table outside Between The Hedges
3. Fourth and long, comma, inability to defend
4. Third and long, comma, inability to convert
5. Sunday morning steak burrito, comma, inability to digest
6. Tampa Bay over Washington, 36-35
7. Green Bay over Atlanta, 33-25
8. Global warming
9. Man's inhumanity to man
10. Gauchos

For the record, ladies, those pants aren't flattering on anyone. You could be built like Paris Hilton, but you're still going to look like a wayward cast member from Pirates of the Caribbean in those stupid-ass pants. And while I can't exactly call them a style, since that would indicate that they're in some way stylish, I can say that they're a trend that's guaranteed to last no longer than one season. So if you've dropped $60 on a pair of pirate pants, you'd better wear 'em like they're going out of style, because they are. And if you've got a pair hanging in your closet with the tags still on them, hurry and trade them in for a pair of real pants that would never be worn by a waiter at a Brazilian steak house.

But I digress.

My point, and I do have one, is... Hold on. I was just saying that... No. Hold on. Back spasms, fake tickets, humiliating football loss, indigestion, more football losses, gauchos... Whatever. Just don't look for me to be blogging like mad for a coupla days. And would someone please tell that monkey to get out of my coffee cup. Damn tiny monkey. What are you doing in there anyway?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

On the sanctity of marriage between one closeted gay man and one woman in search of a green card

Okay, so here's a quickie for a Thursday afternoon. The charming and amusing TBogg gives us 10 reasons why gay marriage should be illegal:
01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

So funny! So funny like I coulda written it myself. Funny!

Monday, November 07, 2005

On HBO shows never shot in my apartment

Okay, so the life of a fashion writer is truly glamorous and exotic. I'm sure I just missed the episode of Sex and the City where Carrie stayed in on a Saturday night and bleached her grout,* right? Right?

*not a euphemism

Friday, November 04, 2005

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. I do my Christmas shopping online, then I go to the mall to absorb the Christmassy atmosphere while sipping Starbucks's newest holiday-themed coffee drink and thanking God I don't have to do any actual shopping. I break out the mulled-cider-scented candles in November. I don't, however, allow myself to start decorating for Christmas or listening to Christmas music before December 1, but thanks to TBogg, I'm going to be loading this one onto my iPod in preparation for cold weather and the deep-south distinct lack of snow:

Now, I think that her pose on the cover there perfectly expresses my feelings about the holiday season, but judging from her reviews on Amazon, some of her fans don't agree. My favorite?
Come on, Diana: It's a CHRISTMAS album! What's with the legs spread, high heels, head thrown back? Hey, if this album was called, "Love After Midnight" or "Exotic Standards" or "I Just Did Four Guys and I'm Exhausted," believe me, I'd be all over it. But it's a CHRISTMAS album.

I hope that commenter doesn't mind, but I have to steal that title for my own debut jazz album. Keep an eye out for it, I Just Did Four Guys and I'm Exhausted, online and in music stores near you in the fall of 2006.

Some of the highlights:

1. Diana Krall, "The Look of Love"
2. Hank Jones and Abbey Lincoln, "First Came Woman"
3. Kent, "747"
4. WorldScapes, "Paris Canaille"
5. Semisonic, "FNT"
6. Lenny Kravitz, "If I Could Fall In Love"
7. Jet, "Look What You've Done"
8. The Chemical Brothers, "Block Rockin' Beats"
9. Ella Fitzgerald, "Slap That Bass"
10. Guster, "Love For Me"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

On treating the disease

Okay, so Sadly, No! points us to a somewhat underrecognized debate over the new cervical cancer vaccine. While the vaccine appears to be nearly 100% effective against HPV, which causes all kinds of fun cancerous lesions on the cervix and kills 3,700 women a year, fundies are getting their (respectable, white cotton, high-waisted granny-)panties in a wad because such protection against HPV will give teenagers enough confidence to scrog up a storm.

Normally, I'd take this opportunity to make some kind of a snarky comment about how kids these days are so pure and chaste and Pleasantville-ish, and how dare anyone threaten that innocence with a potentially life-saving vaccine, but PZ Meyers had to go and put it better than I ever could:
Here's a disease that kills about a third of the women who get it. It turns their reproductive tract into a nest of tumors that can spread and shut down the kidneys, metastasize to the lungs, the gut, everywhere, that sterilizes them and can cause horrible agony. The treatment involves radical hysterectomy, bilateral adnexectomy and lymphadenectomy, words I'd rather my family never even have to learn.

And it's preventable.

Yet these sick, evil people want to be able to hold this horrible disease as a threat to their daughters, their friends' daughters, their neighbors' daughters—they want to be able to say to their kids, "If you don't obey my rules, your womb will rot and dribble out your private parts, and you'll thrash in pain for a while before you die and go to hell." They like the idea of a disease that they can say is not prevented by condoms, so they can continue to preach abstinence with threats.

So there's that.

My question is this: what is this obsession with treating the symptoms of teen sex? It's not just fundie wingnut parents who want their kids to hold off on the sex. My wholly moderate parents gave me the big abstinence talk all throughout my youth, not just because we're Catholic and Catholics are supposed to wait but because a thirteen-year-old girl doesn't have the emotional and logical capacity to make reasonable decisions about things as potentially life-changing as sex. I understand all of this now, but at the time, it was just a "because I said so" rule that I followed because I respected, trusted, and, yeah, feared my parents (just a bit).

They did something else, though - they hedged their bets and taught me the rest of the lesson. I got the block-rockingest pop-up book when I was about five that taught me all about how babies were made (move the little tab and the sperm fertilizes the egg, then turn the wheel to watch the fetus develop...), and when I was older I got the lecture on the various methods of birth control. I also got the stern warning that if I ever did think about getting groiny with a guy, I should only do it with someone I'd want to raise a kid with, 'cause that sort of thing can happen whether you want it to or not.

When I was a teenager, the temptation was all over the place. Between kids my age who were itching to try it out and older kids who had tried it out and were itching to do it some more, sex was everywhere. My junior year of high school, we had three baby showers in homeroom. I managed to avoid the indignity of stretch marks and the cost of a new wardrobe not because my parents had completely sheltered my from sex, but because they had adequately removed the mystery from it. I didn't need to explore; I'd read the book, I'd talked openly with my parents, and the whole thing just didn't seem that impressive.

And yet some parents think that they can make teen sex go away by making it horrible and dangerous. Kids are only doing it because they think they can get away with it, right? So if we make sure the consequences are unavoidable, they'll stop, right? If we can keep them completely in the dark about birth control, completely unprotected from STDs, completely unable to do anything about an unplanned pregnancy (from consensual or nonconsensual sex), they won't do it, right? Because thirteen-year-olds tend to be logical and think through the potential consequences of their actions.

Parents, here's the solution to teen sex: be parents. Love your kids enough to want them to be safe no matter what. You make them use their seatbelts whether or not you expect to get into a car accident, so why would you send them out into an increasingly sexualized world without the slightest clue about how to protect themselves? When you were a kid, sex was a mystery and only the naughty kids did it; these days, it's a sport. It's an after-school activity after the Xbox gets boring. Do you really, seriously think that little Aschleeigh is going to say, "You know what? I don't think that douching with Coke does prevent pregnancy, so I'm going to hold off. Who's up for Scrabble?"

And Jesus, God, people, be there for your kids. Condoms don't cause teen sex; two fifteen-year-olds with nothing to do for three hours after school causes teen sex. Four thirteen-year-old girls in Playboy bunny tank tops and ass shorts unsupervised at the Hollywood Connection cause teen sex. A sixteen-year-old girl with a fake ID and the body of a 25-year-old causes teen sex. A girl of any age who doesn't know that the answer to "If you love me, baby, you'll do it" is a swift kick to the nads causes teen sex. A seventeen-year-old guy with nothing better to do after school than troll the mall for chicks causes teen sex, and a guy who doesn't respect women enough to take "no" for an answer causes teen sex. A girl whose boyfriend is pressuring her for sex, but who doesn't feel comfortable talking to her mother about it? That causes teen sex, too.

Wingnuts love to complain about the government trying to run their lives, but they're quick to delegate child-rearing responsibility to anti-sex ed, anti-abortion and anti-birth control legislation. Here's my message to them: if you want to make kids, you should only do it if you're prepared to raise them. Poking holes in a kid's water wings and throwing him out in the deep end is no way to keep a kid from drowning; you have to teach him to swim. And then for God's sake, keep an eye on him to make sure he knows what he's doing. This isn't the kiddie pool of your youth; your kids are swimming in the wave pool at Six Flags, and whether they'll tell you or not, they're worried about whether or not they know how to handle it.