Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Michael Jackson

Honestly, I will heave if I have to read or listen to another thing about how incredible and miraculous Michael Jackson he changed the world, etc.. No, he didn't. Watch any interview with Michael and you will see a seriously weird individual. Maybe borderline disturbed. Something was not quite right with the man.

I have no idea if he was actually guilty of child molestation. If he was, I hope he is, well, burning in hell, whatever that means. If he wasn't, then I am very sorry he died but really, enough already. He was a very talented musician and dancer. Unique. I saw him perform in the eighties and he was great. It did not change my life.

Assuming he was actually guilty of child molestation, can we still appreciate his music and talent? This is actually a very old question. Can we appreciate the operas of Wagner? The poetry of TS Eliot and Ezra Pound? I can go on and on with a list of creative geniuses who were evil individuals. The entertainment industry in particular seems to breed creative people who either lead amoral lives or hurt other people. Can we still appreciate the art if we abhor the artist? Very interesting question. I have no answer.

Assuming that most of the world thinks child molestation is very, very bad, if you think Michael Jackson deserves to be mourned, you either:

  • don't think he was guilty of child molestation;
  • don't know if he was guilty or not and have decided not to deal with the question because listening to Thriller gives you the warm fuzzies about your childhood in the eighties;
  • think that even if he was guilty, acknowledging that he was possibly a horrible person is enough and you are able to separate the artist from the art;
  • think that even if he was guilty, his music was world-changing and therefore he deserves our veneration.
I personally lean toward the second choice, regardless of the fact that I don't mourn Michael Jackson. I'm sort of done with all the MJ specials and tributes, and interviews of people who knew him or claimed to have known him. The excess of the world's response to the passing of a pop icon is too much, too too much. Really, I've had enough.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

And while we're on the topic of pop culture and music

Just for the helluvit, pick a rock/pop male vocalist and female vocalist from, say the last 40 years, who have the most distinctive, clearest, widest-range voices, a voice that you instantly recognize no matter what the song. My choices would be Freddie Mercury and Sheryl Crow. I hate Sheryl Crow's idiotic politics, but boy do I love her voice. I've always thought Mercury had one of the most flexible, amazing voices in rock history.

Attention Pop Culture Musical Geniuses

I'm trying to remember the name of a nineties one-hit-wonder. It was done by some guy with a synthesizer in his basement who had a pretty good techpop song with sort of morbid lyrics about a girl who gets in to all sorts of trouble. I think it was late nineties. Anybody have a clue?

Father's Day

Not sure why Father's Day gets to me so much. It just does. It's been 4 years since I lost my Dad to cancer. Time has worked it's magic and while I miss him terribly, I've more or less stopped grieving. I get through his birthday and his yahrtzeit just fine, with a visit to his grave and some tears and prayers, but then I'm okay. His death doesn't preoccupy my mind like it used to when it was fresh. But come Father's Day, and it hurts all over again and I feel like I lost him yesterday. Maybe it's because the rest of the world is celebrating fatherhood and I can't. I'm wondering if I will feel better about Father's Day if I ever make my husband into a father. Maybe that's part of the hurt.

I had to buy my father-in-law a Father's Day card, since my husband is allergic to all things Hallmark, and this sort of thing is my designated job. It feels pretty empty to be wishing my father-in-law a Happy Father's Day; he is no more my father than anyone else is. I like him; he's a nice guy and good to my husband, but he's not my father. I've also taken to calling my inlaws Mom and Dad, which is their preference, but certainly not mine. I didn't call them that in my first marriage, but I caved this time around, since it means so much to them. It feels very fake, but sometimes in life, you need to do the wrong thing for the right reason. They are wonderful people, and they certainly treat me almost like parents. But, they're not.

I miss my father. I dreamed about him two nights ago. I was living in the house I grew up in. It was the middle of the night and my father came into my bedroom. "What's the matter, Daddy?" I asked him. "I can't sleep. I'm worried about something and want to talk to you." "Want an Ambien?" I asked him. This is where it crosses over in dream-weirdness because if I was young and living in my parents' house, I wouldn't even know what an Ambien was, let alone offer one to my father. In the dream, my father tells me something which I can't remember then hugs me really tight and leaves the room. I can almost feel that hug and I wish I could remember what he told me.

I wonder what dreams mean. Was that my father visiting me from the next world (I can't sleep.) or was that just a product of my grieving mind missing him? I wish it were the former, but I sadly know it's the latter. I do believe my father exists somewhere, but I know we can't communicate. You can't imagine how sad this makes me.

Sometimes I go through some of his things to make me feel a little closer to him. I need to be in the right frame of mind for this though. I think if I did that today, I'd melt away into grief and hysteria. Wouldn't be a good thing. I still have the sefer that was opened on his desk before he was taken away to the hospital for the last time. I keep the bookmark in the place it was opened to. Yes, I know how foolish and sentimental that is. Once, someone was going through my bookcase and took out the sefer and opened it to the mark and then almost dropped it. I nearly had a coronary, thinking that my father's place would be lost. I told a friend of mine about the sefer and she thought it was beautiful that I was holding my father's place. "You know, so that when he come back in tchiyat hamaytim (God's resurrection of the dead), he can just pick up his learning where he left off." My friend is very spiritual. It's not that I don't believe in tchiyat hamaytim. I do. It's just that it would hurt too much to personalize it and give myself the hope that someday I might see my father again. It's one thing to think about it in religious terms; quite another to think about what it might mean to me. Though I will admit, since my father's death, I do say that particular blessing in the Amidah with more kavanah.

Sorry to get so morbid on such a happy day. If you're a dad, enjoy your day and hug your kids. If you're a son or daughter, give your dad a big kiss and appreciate and love the heck out of him. And have a Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How to Not Be Romantic

You're not going to like this post. I'm not even sure I'm going to like this post. It's so anti-intuitive. But I'm going to talk about how my marriage has completely changed my ideas about what is romantic.

When I married my husband the first time, we did romance. He sent me flowers. He got me jewelry. We did dumb, mushy, bad joke Hallmark cards. We lit candles. We went out for picnics on the beach, dinners in dark restaurants. We went on weekends away in ski resorts, vacations, etc. We followed the script. We were even following the script when we were being creative and spontaneous. We were both doing romance the way we thought it should be, the way it was on Friends, and in the movies, and in trashy novels. You know, explosive, demonstrative, with big gestures and lots of gazing into each other eyes.

Yeah. Well. Five years later, that romance didn't keep us from getting divorced. What it did do was cause a lot of resentment on the mutual lack of response to each other's efforts. Why? Why didn't I feel loved when The Husband bought me diamond earrings? Why did I silently criticize how small they were and how they were in yellow gold when he knows I like white gold and how the diamonds were so unwhite? Yes, I did think that, internally (thankfully, I knew enough not give voice to such pettiness). On his side, instead of appreciating my gestures, he resented the fact that I was spending so much money on them. The romance was hollow to us. It did nothing to generate love. There was so much wrong in so many other areas that the romance became plastic.

Fast forward to marriage #2. We just passed our one month anniversary and we spontaneously bought each other stuff to celebrate. I got him a portable Ipod speaker (cost: $9.99) and he got me Bananagrams (cost: $14.99). What was cool about this was that 1) we didn't decide beforehand to buy each other gifts, we just did and 2) we didn't spend a ton of money and 3) we bought each other very un-romantic gifts. But we spent two hours playing Bananagrams on Shabbos afternoon and laughing our heads off at some of our lame attempts at cheating. And he used the Ipod speaker while he was relaxing at home and didn't feel like having headphones on. And I think that we both really liked our gifts. And we both felt appreciated and loved.

When we got engaged the first time, I hooked The Husband up with my cousin in the jewelry business and he bought my engagement ring from him. He had a certain ring in mind (round stone, yellow gold, solitaire setting) and so did I (radiant stone, white gold, side stones). We went back and forth and settled on a compromise, but we both felt sort of bad about it. I wanted him to instinctively know what I wanted and was frustrated with what he wanted to choose for me. I realize now how foolish that was. He wanted to pick out the ring himself and was frustrated with how what I wanted was so different from what he thought would be the perfect ring for me. What we compromised on was still a pretty ring. But the process to getting there sort of sucked the joy out of it.

Fast forward to marriage #2. I still had the stone from the first engagement ring (I had reset it into a necklace during the divorce). I asked The Husband about putting it into a new engagement ring for our new engagement/marriage. He said: here's what I'd like to spend, go get yourself a new ring setting and tell your cousin to send me a bill. Very unromantic, right? But I picked out exactly what I wanted, and then threw in some of my own money to buy a matching band. Very, very unromantic. And when I showed him the rings, The Husband looked at my hand and said "Wow. They look gorgeous. I would have never chosen that style. We'll have to work on some matching stuff for future anniversaries." And then I tackled him. And what started as a very unromantic, practical gesture became a very sweet promise. And frankly, I don't care that much about when we actually buy the stuff. It's the feeling behind the promise that was never there in the first marriage. And when I look down at my hand, I feel like my husband really does love me. Finally.

This is probably obvious to everyone else, but at last I've realized how mature, happy people carry on relationships. It's not romance that makes the love. It's love that makes the romance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hubris, Part 2

Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was testifying on the Louisiana coastal restoration process in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He began to answer one of Boxer's questions with "ma'am" when Boxer immediately cut him off.

"You know, do me a favor," an irritated Boxer said. "Could say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am?'"

"Yes, ma'am," Walsh interjected.

"It's just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it, yes, thank you," she said.

"Yes, senator," he responded.

Watch it here.
One who runs after honor will have it run away from him.
-The Talmud, Eruvin 13b

Hubris, Part 1

“I’ve got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration.”
-President Obama, 6/17/09
Really Mr. President? Would you like some cheese with that whine?

You forgot to mention that you've also got one station entirely devoted to adoring and worshiping your administration and pretty much the rest of the mainstream media soft-balling any criticism of your administration to the point of losing any real claims of objectivity. Oh, and let's not forget the prime time infomercial on your health care program that ABC is basically giving to you. Seriously.

And, btw, Mr. President, let me remind you of the fact that you are The President and that this is a democracy. The President gets to be criticized. Yeah, that's how that the Free Press works.

Why don't you ask President Bush how many stations were entirely devoted to attacking his administration?

Freebies/Deals Roundup

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Free Toonz

22 Free Itunes songs from Nylon Magazine, here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Will on Green

I'm going to reprint here, in it's entirety, the George Will article about going green. (Thank you P.S. for yet another great email). I'm reprinting it because it is so freaking brilliant. I heard George Will speak at a university once, and went home thinking he was one of the greatest modern thinkers of the 21st century. I wish I could be this eloquent.

Oh, and I saw one episode of the The Goode Family and I almost fell over laughing. The show is sadly on target.

Green With Guilt
By George F. Will
Thursday, June 4, 2009

There once was an Indianapolis concert featuring 50 pianos. Splendid instruments, pianos. Still, 50 might have been excessive. As is today's chorus summoning us to save the planet.

In the history of developed democracies with literate publics served by mass media, there is no precedent for today's media enlistment in the crusade to promote global warming "awareness." Concerning this, journalism, which fancies itself skeptical and nonconforming, is neither.

The incessant hectoring by the media-political complex's "consciousness-raising" campaign has provoked a comic riposte in the form of "The Goode Family," an animated ABC entertainment program at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesdays. Cartoons seem, alas, to be the most effective means of seizing a mass audience's attention. Still, the program is welcome evidence of the bursting of what has been called "the green bubble."

Gerald and Helen Goode, their children and dog Che (when supervised, he is a vegan; when unsupervised, squirrels disappear) live in a college town, where T-shirts and other media instruct ("Meat is murder"), admonish ("Don't kill wood") and exhort ("Support our troops . . . and their opponents"). The college, where Gerald works, gives students tenure. And when Gerald says his department needs money to raise the percentage of minority employees, his boss cheerily replies, "Or we could just fire three white guys. Everybody wins!" Helen shops at the One Earth store, where community shaming enforces social responsibility: "Attention One Earth shoppers, the driver of the SUV is in aisle four. He's wearing the baseball cap."

The New York Times television critic disapproves. The show "feels aggressively off-kilter with the current mood, as if it had been incubated in the early to mid-'90s, when it was possible to find global-warming skeptics among even the reasonable and informed." That is a perfect (because completely complacent) sample of the grating smugness of the planet-savers, delivered by an entertainment writer: Reasonable dissent is impossible. Cue the pianos.

"The Goode Family" does not threaten Jonathan Swift's standing as the premier English-language satirist. But when a Goode child apologizes to his parent for driving too much, and the parent responds, "It's okay . . . what's important is that you feel guilty about it," the program touches upon an important phenomenon: ecology as psychology.

In "The Green Bubble: Why Environmentalism Keeps Imploding" [the New Republic, May 20], Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of "Break Through: Why We Can't Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists," say that a few years ago, being green "moved beyond politics." Gestures -- bringing reusable grocery bags to the store, purchasing a $4 heirloom tomato, inflating tires, weatherizing windows -- "gained fresh urgency" and "were suddenly infused with grand significance."
Green consumption became "positional consumption" that identified the consumer as a member of a moral and intellectual elite. A 2007 survey found that 57 percent of Prius purchasers said they bought their car because "it makes a statement about me." Honda, alert to the bull market in status effects, reshaped its 2009 Insight hybrid to look like a Prius.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger note the telling "insignificance," as environmental measures, of planting gardens or using fluorescent bulbs. Their significance is therapeutic, but not for the planet. They make people feel better:
"After all, we can't escape the fact that we depend on an infrastructure -- roads, buildings, sewage systems, power plants, electrical grids, etc. -- that requires huge quantities of fossil fuels. But the ecological irrelevance of these practices was beside the point."

The point of "utopian environmentalism" was to reduce guilt. During the green bubble, many Americans became "captivated by the twin thoughts that human civilization could soon come crashing down -- and that we are on the cusp of a sudden leap forward in consciousness, one that will allow us to heal ourselves, our society, and our planet. Apocalyptic fears meld seamlessly into utopian hopes." Suddenly, commonplace acts -- e.g., buying light bulbs -- infused pedestrian lives with cosmic importance. But:

"Greens often note that the changing global climate will have the greatest impact on the world's poor; they neglect to mention that the poor also have the most to gain from development fueled by cheap fossil fuels like coal. For the poor, the climate is already dangerous."

Now, say Nordhaus and Shellenberger, "the green bubble" has burst, pricked by Americans' intensified reluctance to pursue greenness at a cost to economic growth. The dark side of utopianism is "escapism and a disengagement from reality that marks all bubbles, green or financial." Reengagement with reality is among the recession's benefits.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Deal roundup

Monday, June 1, 2009

Of Mice and Freaks

We recently had a little rodent attack in our garage. That is a euphemistic way of saying that there are mouse droppings everywhere. It is beyond disgusting. Seriously.

So I placed an ad on Craigslist saying that I needed a few people who can deal with ickiness who will clean out my garage. It needs to be swept out and everything needs to be wiped down with a bleach based cleaner. I would provide rubber gloves, cleansers and face masks. I was paying a big twelve dollars an hour for this job, which is basically what we can afford. I posted the ad and sat back.

Instantly, I was flooded with responses from people who are desperate for work and cash. We had nearly fifty of those. It kinda bothers me that so many people are willing to do this sort of work for so little. That tells me how bad the local economy is.

Here's what I learned about job hunting in general from this experience:

1) if you are answering to an ad that specifies a salary, don't respond that you will happily do it for more. We had a few people saying that they would do it for $15/hour, with a minimum number of hours guaranteed. The thing is, I got flooded by emails from people who offered to do it for even less than $12/hour, so all things being equal, why on earth would I use the more demanding respondents?

2) I asked for references (these workers are going to be in my home). Anyone who responded without at least one phone number for me to call got dumped in my delete pile. If I ask for a reference, give me a reference. One person even berated me for asking for a reference for such a menial job.

3) while I didn't ask for experience since this is a fairly simple job, some people responded by listing references and cleaning experience. Those people went right to the top of the pile. If you have something relevant to the position, offer it up, even if the potential employer didn't ask for it.

4) People that sounded illiterate went to the delete pile. I know, you don't need good grammar to bleach a garage, but it helps if I can communicate easily with you.

5) One of the stupidest things you can do is offer to come here to do the job with your significant other. Yeah, that's just what I want. One girl even said that she and her boyfriend would be happy to show up to clean the garage, but her boyfriend would be doing most of the work. So why would I pay two people if only one is working? This isn't a day in Six Flags, it's a yucky job. I don't want people socializing. I want them scrubbing.

6) Lots of sob stories. I didn't penalize people for them, but I did ignore the stories and hated myself a little for that. It bugs me when someone writing a job response says he needs money to buy groceries. If he's got enough money for internet access but can't afford to eat, something is wrong with his prioritizing. And anyway, I want the best worker, not the neediest worker. This will probably sound harsh, but I feel like it's unethical to share your desperation with a potential employer. It puts them in an uncomfortable position. I know this sounds pretty mean-spirited, but I want to choose someone objectively.

7) Finally, this was my favorite response. Really, 99% of all responses were normal. But this one freak was the ray of sunshine in my day.

Dear Garage Woman, I know this is not going to be what you expected, I have a fetish that could work for both of us. I enjoy being Dominated and have much experiance (sic) role-playing as a naked houseboy. You would not have to pay anything to get your garage cleaned, if you would explore your Dominant side and give me orders and instruct me. I live in ____, I am 52 with black hair, blue eyes, 240 lbs. I can travel and am free as early as noon today. -Sir Rocket.
Yeah. He's not going to get the job. It would be a little problematic to have someone cleaning my garage, er, naked. LOL. I love Craigslist.