Friday, October 30, 2009

Walking Happy Meals

Now, as we have all learned from Buffy, Halloween is traditionally a quiet night for vampires and the supernatural community. It is far too commercial and crass for them. However, zombies are not aware of such regulations. In the spirit of keeping everyone safe, I have hereby completely plagiarized some basic knowledge to help keep you and yours alive during any All Hallows Eve based zombie attack.

1. First things first, choose the right weapon. It must become an extension of your body. The crossbow is recommended as the perfect silent killer, but nothing, I repeat, nothing, is more important than your primary firearm, preferably a semi-automatic rifle. Keep it clean. Keep it loaded. Keep it close.

2. Dress appropriately. Nothing has saved more lives than basic, tight clothing and closely cropped hair. Do not give the zombies anything to grab. Most forms of armor are completely ineffective or completely impractical. Kevlar covers can reduce the risk of zombie bites in close quarter situations, but should not be worn at all times.

3. Prepare your home. If you have not taken such basic steps as to build a ten-foot cinder block wall around your home, don’t worry, there is still hope. Simply climb up into the attic and demolish all staircases, creating an instant haven from the undead. Make sure you are well stocked with a variety of weapons and equipment, not to mention adequate food, water, and medicine.

4. On the move. If you do find yourself without a safe haven, then do everything possible to become invisible. Avoid detection at all costs. Circumvent urban areas and keep a destination in mind. Travel light. You will carry your hospital, armory, and storeroom on your back. If possible, acquire a motorcycle. It is by far the best choice for fleeing a zombie horde.

5. On the attack. Undead warfare should never be a solo mission. You need a disciplined, well-trained group, a well-defended home base, good communication, and an iron-clad plan of attack, defense, and escape. Know your terrain and remember, never, ever go off alone – this will only serve to get you killed and create one more zombie that must be annihilated.

Be safe. Be wary. Be prepared. An attack can occur at any time.

Note: My brothers-in-law are absolutely obsessed with zombies and surviving the zombie war. One has obtained zombie targets to help him hone his shooting skills and has fortifications in place to help him survive living in a zombie-infested world. The other frequently updates and practices his zombie readiness plan. All information included herein was actually underlined for me in The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, which was given to me as a Christmas gift by, you guessed it, one of my brothers-in-law. Luckily, they both enjoy a healthy sense of humor and realize that zombies are indeed, fiction, not fact. Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Broadway vs. Broad Street

As the Phillies and the Yankees get ready to play the World Series and I feel obligated to watch a series of games I have absolutely no interest in (beyond the singing of the National Anthem), I felt it was time to make my feelings on the subject clear.

You see, I’ve lived in a town where baseball is king. I lived in Boston and I lived there pre-2004. Opening day of the Red Sox season is practically a state-wide holiday. My husband I lived a short walk over the Charles and a few T-stops away from Fenway, so we became friendly with the Green Monster. We used to go to games the way other people went to the movies. During a summer when my husband travelled more than he was home, the sound of a baseball game on the TV was my constant companion and as soothing as a lullaby. I lived there when the Patriots’ won the Super Bowl and even then, when the team paraded down Beacon Street, there was more Red Sox merchandise on display than anything with the Flying Elvis on it.

The rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox is legendary. I have never attended an event in Boston where a sudden cheer of “Yankees Suck” didn’t roll through the crowd at least once. It did not matter the sport, the venue, the occasion, or the actual number of New Yorkers in attendance, if you were in Boston and you were in a crowd, someone would yell out “Yankees Suck” and everyone else would chime in for a few rounds.

Now with the “Amtrack” series starting (so called that by, well, Amtrack), I really couldn’t care less that my home team will win, I just want the Yankees to lose. But I am on a quest for the ultimate anti-Yankee t-shirt. Will I don a “Jesus Hates the Yankees” t-shirt? Well, no, most notably because the deity I worship is a bit busy with keeping the Four Horseman from taking over the world to worry about the World Series. Will I buy a “Phuck New York” tee?” Ah, no. I prefer my clothing to be spell-checked. But I am on the hunt for a shirt that aptly describes my overall ennui about the game itself while still describing my interest in the final outcome, and in the end, the classic “Yankees Suck” shirt might just have to do.

Monday, October 26, 2009

May the Schwartz Be With You

I now know why Princes Leia was such a bitch in Star Wars. It was the hair. I spent all day yesterday wearing that ridiculous bun hairstyle in a show of solidarity with my almost five-year old daughter (that almost is very important to her), and good god, but it hurt like hell. Yes, her costume came with a wig, but I knew it would wind up as a hairball at the bottom of the stroller by the end of the day, so I went old-school and bobby-pinned the buns to her head.

Let’s begin at the beginning. While looking through all of the costume catalogues that start arriving in mid-July, my daughter found the Star Wars page. She had already leafed past the requisite Disney Princess costumes when she spied Leia. My daughter immediately went into raptures that there was a princess out there who she didn’t know about! “This, she declared, “is what I am going to be for trick-or-treating.” But then, looking further on the page, she spied the Ewok costume and determined that this must be Leia’s pet, and therefore, the perfect costume for her two-year old brother. Poor kid, three years running and he hasn’t picked his own costume yet. Maybe next year.

I am part of the Star Wars generation. My first memory of ever being in a movie theater was hiding my eyes in terror when Vadar is revealed in Cloud City. I remember trying to dress as Leia as a child and crying because my sister was using black thread on my white costume. Once VCR’s became the norm in homes, my dad would pop in one of the three original movies the way other dads put on ESPN. (But he could never remember what order they should be watched in, so I had to put stickers with little numbers on them to help him out). I couldn’t even tell you if the movies or good or bad. They are so much part of my life that I have no ability to look at them objectively. I even slept out for tickets to Episode 1 and saw it twice within 24 hours on opening day. And while that movie and the other two following it were terrible, the actual experience of sleeping out was awesome. My now husband even joined in the all-night fun (minds out of the gutter, people) in an attempt to woo me. We watched light-saber fights and the original three movies off using pirated electricity from the movie theater. They kind theater managers even gave out bags of popcorn and water come morning.

So when my daughter decided to join in the fun, I knew I had to find a costume as well. Yeah, that didn’t work so well. For obvious reasons, Leia’s slave girl costume was out of the question. Queen Amidala’s costume was a bit ornate and the Padme costume was just bizarre. My husband has a Star Wars t-shirt and deemed that sufficient for his costume, but I was at a loss. So when the time came for the first of many Halloween outings, I decided to just go for the buns. They hurt. They are a bitch to do properly, and when you have a child with chin-length hair, almost impossible to do at all. She would up with little knobs on the top of her head, and I, well, I wound up with the mother of all headaches.

Anyway, so while neither child has ever seen a Star Wars movie and probably won’t for several years, I’m glad they are now part of the Rebel Alliance. Now, if only I could get my daughter to say, “May the Force be with You” instead of trick-or-treat, all will be right with the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Searching for Unicorns

Meg Wolitzer’s book, The Ten Year Nap, is filled with stay-at-home mothers who can’t seem to decide what they want in life, but can’t seem to stop complaining about how they aren’t achieving it. They all float along in bubbles of self-absorption and self-doubt. They cannot make a single decision for themselves. They are completely unable to operate without being told how.

When did strong and sensible SAHM become the modern-day equivalent of the unicorn? Why do female writers continue to perpetuate the notion that a woman who gives up her career is also giving up her brain? When did our options narrow down to either stay at home and be unhappy or go to work and be happy? Nothing in life is that simple. The author does a grave injustice to all women by putting complex and difficult choices into neat little boxes.

To add insult to injury, the author not only simplifies their inner lives, she can’t seem to fill in any real details about their outer lives. Characters live “outside Philadelphia” or in the “suburbs of New York City” as if there aren’t incredible distinctions between neighborhoods in the Delaware Valley or the tri-state area surrounding Manhattan. In fact, all locations and details have been fictionalized. Was the writer too lazy to do a Google search to even find the name of a legal software program? Even Stephanie Meyer put in enough effort to locate Forks on a map (though she never visited it and, well, if I start on that series, this post might never end). Lazy writing and lazy characters make me angry.

Am I taking a nap from my life as the title implies? Are you kidding me? I may not be actively living in the corporate world, but my days are filled. All the women I know realize that life is not simple, that choices can change, and that happiness is not an either/or option. When will female writers learn the same?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus Hate

I used to watch J&K+8. I found it interesting to see how an ordinary couple raised a horde of kids all by themselves. They had few friends, little family, and a limited income. They just wanted child number three and instead got three, four, five, six, seven, and eight. It was interesting to watch two ordinary people try to do ordinary things under extraordinary circumstances.

But then, things started to get a little strange. Friends and family disappeared from view. The parents worked less and less, but the family vacationed more and more. We were told that this was a happy family doing normal things, but it became harder to show it. The children got bigger, but didn’t seem to grow up. The parents got lots of things, but didn’t seem to get each other. There were rumblings that all wasn’t as it seemed, but surely, a couple who just celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary with a renewal of vows couldn’t be on the rocks, right? And then it all came tumbling down with one picture of Jon drunk, at a bar, with another woman. Spin, damage control, tabloids, paparazzi, talk shows, lather, rinse, repeat.

The truth of the matter – we were hoodwinked from the beginning. The babies weren’t a happy accident; they were the result of willful ignorance of fertility recommendations. The parents didn’t fall into the limelight; they very carefully sought it out. They weren’t overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers; instead, they created opportunities to capitalize on that kindness. How did we get taken in so completely?

In a word: editing. From the very beginning, Jon and Kate very carefully edited what they said to the public. From the very beginning, they bent and twisted the truth to suit their needs. Then TLC joined in the fun and brought professional editors into the mix. Lo and behold, we had captivating reality television, though it bore little to no resemblance to real life.

Now we have two people who seem to have no ability to self-edit at all. Maybe after years of living with the TLC bit in their mouth, they just can’t help but wag their tongues at anything that will listen. Maybe they were so tired of being gagged that they just can’t help but shout at the world, hear me, hear me. Or maybe it’s all just part of the show. Maybe they are so used to living a lie that they don’t even know their way back to the truth.

Ah, well. Jon & Kate Plus Eight the television show might be over, the family might be broken beyond repair, and the media may tire of reality television for good, but there is a bright light on the horizon. One day, it might be ten years from now, it might be 15, but one day, Mady Gosselin is going to write a book about all of this and I am absolutely going to read it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

All the News that is Fit to Post

Ah, CNN, when did you lose your way?

Let’s talk about Balloon Boy, shall we? First off, when the father of said child calls the local news outlet before he calls 911, your bullshit radar should start pinging. If I believe my child is in danger of falling out of a weather balloon, I don’t call Dave Roberts to ask for his help (unless, of course, he is going to send his son to offer a warm hug). When the child in question actually tells Larry King that his parents did it for “a show”, your bullshit radar should break and you should immediately stop covering the story. It wasn’t a story. It was a hoax and you completely and willingly bought into it to garner page views. Now, to cover your own ass, you have a lead story asking if it ok for local law enforcement to knowingly mislead. Mislead whom, exactly? The sheriff was pretty sure the parents created the situation and since they were the only ones with a vested interest in the health and welfare of the child, misleading the parents into providing enough information to uncover the truth seems like solid police work. Was the public misled into believing a child was actually in danger? Yes, but that is CNN’s own damn fault. You called a child who never actually set foot in a balloon the "Ballon Boy." Next time, do a little investigative journalism, try to uncover the actual facts, and then post the story based on solid reporting.

Another problem with CNN is its timeliness. When you stop posting hard news and start posting celebrity gossip, do try to keep up. Don’t be out scooped by Perez Hilton. Don’t let Gawker get an exclusive. Don’t add insult to injury by posting three-day old story in a place of honor on your news feed. Those that care about celebrity news will already know, and those that don’t will once again sigh and scroll down in search of something more interesting.

However, in the spirit of cooperation, let me offer five tips to make you a better news source:

1 – Quit with the damn videos. You aren’t YouTube. If I want to actually watch the news, I’ll turn on the TV.

2 – No one wants a t-shirt with the title of a news story on it. Not even if they are IN the news story.

3 – Please use your Breaking News banner wisely. Weather is not breaking news and you aren’t the weather channel. Ever since 9/11 you are the Boy Who Cried NEWS. Calm down.

4 – iReports. Why, when a dust storm made Sydney look like it had fallen into the Hellmouth, weren’t there official pictures from an international news source? The best you could do was an iReport? That's just lazy.

5 – And because it cannot be stressed enough – quit the “celebrity” coverage. Just because someone is on television does not mean what they do outside of my little black box is interesting. This is especially true of reality TV.

I will continue checking CNN daily, but I don't have high hopes. Instead, I'll read my Yahoo! news page with all its myriad sources and try to keep up with current events the old-fashioned way, by gossiping about it with friends and family.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In the Beginning

This blog is a test. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was a writer. Sure, we all were. Who didn't pen the occasional torrid poem to an unrequited love, the bitter ode to a parent, or doodle the words to a song on the back of a notebook? Words have power and back in the day, I used to try to harness that power for both good and evil. Then I went to grad school and realized that anyone claiming to be a “writer” was usually toiling in the back office of any number of publications, none of which were actually paying them for writing. I will admit to having grand dreams of penning the next Great American Novel, or even more importantly, the next New York Times bestseller. Then I grew up, got out in the world a bit, and realized the most creative writing I was attempting was on my résumé.

Many years passed and I found myself a bit adrift. At sea. Occasionally bored out of my mind. I started thinking about writing, but what? To whom? For what purpose? But then I realized that isn’t actually the point. I like to write because words get jumbled in my head and I can’t think straight until I shake them loose and sort them out on paper. I write better than I speak, and if that isn’t frightening, then I don’t know what is.

So, I’ll write. And maybe you will read it. And maybe you will chuckle, or nod in agreement, or shake your head, or roll your eyes. If you like it, maybe you will pass it on. That’s cool with me. The Internet is filled with millions of monkeys all pecking away trying to create Shakespeare. I’m just hoping for the occasional banana.

10 Reasons to Hate Disney

Top Ten Reasons to Avoid Disney Movies

1. Death. Seriously, what does the Mouse House have against parents anyway? Nemo’s mother, Simba’s father, and Tarzan’s parents all get killed on screen. Even Andy has a single mom. It is best not to even mention what happens to Bambi’s mother. Venison, anyone?

2. Violence. Bad guys in the Disney world are really bad. They try to overthrow royalty, topple governments, kill family members, are environmentally unfriendly, and are never, ever kind to animals. When our intrepid “hero/ine” commits murder at the end of the story to “save” the girl/boy, the world, etc., we are supposed to cheer. Um, yay? Gaston didn’t slip, he was dropped.

3. Sex. If you take your average princess and dress your child in her normal clothes, you would get arrested for child porn. You couldn’t see a belly button on I Dream of Jeanie yet you can practically see Jasmine’s areola.

4. Romance/Love. According to Disney, the road to a strong relationship is built on a foundation of deceit and poor communication. Belle shows all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome. Some of them never even have a conversation with their “true love.” Ariel is an actual fishwife! Methinks Eric is going to rue not finding that out beforehand.

5. Imagination. I want my daughter to think “outside the castle.” A fairy godmother doesn’t have to say “bippity boppity boo.” Sometimes they say things like, “I want you to believe in yourself, imagine good things, and moisturize.” (To Wong Foo).

6. Friendship. Oh sure, they all have some animal that has been anthropomorphized within an inch of its existence, but where are their actual girlfriends? They are all princesses, right? There should be a full court of people begging to be around them at all times. Instead, they all have some poor sad little fish or chipmunk to guide them.

7. Age. Most of the characters are children or teenagers. Excluding Gisele, I don’t think any of them are old enough to vote, let alone drink. So why are they so focused on getting married? It’s the Wonderful World of Disney, not the backwoods of Appalachia. Go to college, backpack through Europe, get a job. Trust me, you can have sex without marriage, give it a whirl.

8. Money. I want to find the guy who created the “Princesses” line and do horrible things to him. Then I want to show him to the guy who created the “Fairies” as an example. Tinkerbell is her name, damn it! She’s not a Tinker named Bell. If I wanted, I could have gotten married in an all-Disney wedding in Disney, decorate my house entirely in Disney colors, furniture, art, and textiles, and dress in only Disney clothing. That’s not a culture, that’s a cult.

9. Music. Yes, the tunes are catchy. I actually have That’s How You Know as my ringtone. My friends sang Under the Sea in lieu of Happy Birthday at my 16th birthday party. I created a Disney genre on iTunes and play it when I work. But real people do not burst into song in the middle of conversation. Animals do not sing. The world is not a Greek chorus ready to spring into harmony. The earlier you learn that, the better.

10. Life. Is the concept of “happily ever after” as warped anywhere as in the Disney canon? Uncle Walt will marry you faster than Elvis, but then what? You don’t think Cinderella or Aurora needed a little therapy? Aladdin has a pretty steep learning curve on running his kingdom and Belle has to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder for hers. It seems like little Nemo has a new stepmother to deal with and Woody has some 'splainin to do to Little Bo Peep. Life is hard, and while you may be able to whistle while you work, you certainly can’t expect the pigeons and rats to help.