Friday, September 09, 2011

Gemini, Sagittarius Rising Is a Very Good Sign

Corbet was born in June. I like to think of how I'll tell him about it when he's older. I'll tell him in the kind of voice you imagine a wizard would tell a creation story in a fantasy book. Kind of whispery (and not because of my paralyzed vocal cord) and mystical sounding: "You were born in a sultry land with firebugs at dusk and overgrown vines clinging to abandoned bridge pylons that span wide rivers and deep grottoes." That's how Nashville is, kind of. You get to places where you think civilization has vanished even though you're in the middle of a city. Sometimes you just can't tell.

This is how he looked a day after he was born.

I had an urgent (different from emergency, apparently) C-section–the most natural birthing method–so his head and face are rather perfect. I loved having a C-section. It feels like a baby is being ripped out of your abdomen. Kidding. I mean, it does feel like that. I'm just kidding about loving it.

I'm glad he's alive, really, since it seemed like he was never going to come out any other way and from my perspective, it was touch and go for a minute there. I've probably mentioned this a thousand times already, but the cord was around his neck twice and he was posterior. And stuck. He wouldn't move. Anyway, some umbilical cords are long enough to jump rope with, and some are so short it's as though nature is saying, "This baby will never be able to leave the womb, bwah ha ha ha ha!" I think that's the way Corbet's umbilical cord was.

Stoker was also born with a nuchal cord only his was around his neck FOUR TIMES. They pulled him out (the natural way) and the doctors and nurses did double dutch jump-rope before cutting the cord.

Not really. I actually hate it when people joke about birth and stuff, and here I am doing just that. I couldn't resist. And I'm only allowing myself to joke about it because I had a near-death experience myself while giving birth. So I'm allowed.

OK. It wasn't near-death exactly. It just felt that way after laboring for like seventeen hours sans medication, then having the double contraction crap and being stuck at seven for four or five hours, then having the nitrous oxide (which didn't help), then being told I ought to have an epidural after all (and hearing Corbet's heart rate drop to almost nothing every time I had a contraction), then being told I ought to have a C-section, etc. Yeah, it was insane. And I was confused quite often. I'd hear bits and pieces from the midwife and the nurses and that contributed to the air of danger.

So anyway, no one wants to hear about that, I'm sure. 

Surprisingly, my cat was bigger than Corbet. She's kind of hefty and even though Corbet was a large newborn (8 lbs 8 oz), the cat managed to be larger than him:

Bastet, my first-born cat with Corbet, my first-born son.

Bastet really loved having a mini-human to hang around with. She often thinks he's playing games with her and cuddling with her. Rather adorable. Cats rule. And babies too.

This is how Corbet looked a few weeks after he was born:

The author's son contemplating the nature of birth and life and other weighty topics.

In his mind, he was composing his first novel. It's sure to be a Pulitzer prize winner. This is actually his most pensive shot, he's usually extremely happy. He wakes up from naps and grins like he's just won the lottery. In fact, his been a smiler from day one. This was taken just a few hours after he was born:

Some people would say, "Oh, he just had gas." But no. He didn't. I was there. No gas. He has gas all the time now and there's definitely a difference between a baby with gas or a baby who's pooping, and a baby who's smiling. I never thought I'd be so comfortable saying "pooping" on my blog, but there it is. I guess that's what having a baby does to you. Suddenly everything is feeding, sleeping, burping, and pooping. The essential elements of life.

So he's a pretty handsome lad, if I do say so myself. And he makes me happy. I never thought I could love something as much as I love him. And I'm a lover. So that's saying a lot.

Corbet swaddling and nesting in a bouncy chair shaped like a frog. Less than a week old.

A few weeks after he was born, I started writing a blog post about how I had Meatloaf's song "I'd Do Anything for Love" in my head all the time because I kept thinking about how much I love Corbet. I thought I'd go through hell for him (lines from the song, "I'd run right into hell and back"). Birth is sort of like that, you know: hell. Even though my labor went alright until I got stuck and everything went haywire. And it makes sense to me now that it's not easy (so you work harder to keep your investment safe and healthy...), despite how I had planned to have a really perfect labor experience, with the hypnosis and all. I wanted to be the woman saying it was beautiful and not painful and all that. It was all that, at least, until it turned hellish and I thought we were all going to die.

So I was writing about Meatloaf's song and talking about how much I love Meatloaf, both the food and the singer, and how Celebrity Apprentice was awesome last season because of Meatloaf and now his song makes sense because he's a really really passionate guy, given to tearing up easily or losing his temper at Gary Busey (who sort of deserves it, let's be honest). And then I didn't post it. But the point of it was that I was overwhelmed with how everything changed once Corbet was born. Suddenly I knew I WOULD do anything for him because of how much I love him.

But I won't do that.

"That," according to Meatloaf, is cheating. It's a different sort of love that calls for a promise like that, though, in all fairness to Corbet, I won't cheat on his dad. Because that would be bad of me, and I love his dad. And we make cute babies, or so I've been told (all my friends insist).

See, this is Corbet at three months:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Buongiorno! I'm Gino..."

Bert Large is a character I wish I'd created. To quote Barry (High Fidelity): "[He's] so good. [He] shoulda been mine."

Of course, I doubt I have the skill or talent to create such a fantastic character and then to bring him to life all on my own the way Ian McNeice does.

 Bert Large (Ian McNeice) as a ventriloquist for the Port Wenn Talent show.

If you don't know who Bert Large is, that means you haven't been watching Doc Martin and why haven't you? You're missing out. It's pure genius. Although, for some reason, I don't think a show of this caliber could survive on its own in the U.S. during prime-time against shows like CSI and Bones. I think it requires the genius of the British to come up with a show of this nature and then maintain an audience for it in the long run.

Maybe I'm underestimating American audiences, or maybe it's the American production companies. I don't know who, but SOMEONE is to blame for the lack of this quality of work in the U.S. Luckily, the British make it and ship it over, and it finds the niche audience like myself. I'm just glad there are others like me, otherwise the Brits wouldn't even bother to ship it over.

In any case, thank goodness someone out there cares about quality, otherwise I'd starve. The only other place to find such a colorful cast of characters is in a Dickens novel. Dickens is great, but it's fun to have someone else do the work for me when I can't sit down and read a book.

Doc Martin isn't just about the doctor. It's about a village on the Cornish coast.

Point one. A village. On the Cornish coast. Who even uses the term village anymore? That's one of the great things about the show, that it's got this colloquial sense about it. However, that doesn't mean it's some dreary, slow-moving account of each individual in Port Wenn (the fictional name of the village). Nope. Each episode usually consists of several strands of storyline that are braided together and which eventually meet up and make sense at the end.

Point two. Braided storyline. I don't dissect every TV show I've ever watched, but this one is cleverly done up into a sleek braid that has a pleasant snap to it. Like a whip. The show has a whippish intellect. Now, apparently whippish is not a word, but for my purposes it means whip-like. Makes sense, I think. So, another great thing about Doc Martin. I watched all thirty or so episodes almost without stopping (I had a lot of down time while taking care of the baby) and never once did I think, "Oh man, if Jack Bauer saves the world again at the last minute...." or "Oh no, if they say 'intubate' or 'he's seizing!' one more time, I'm going to throttle their necks!" Because, unlike many dramas, Doc Martin doesn't seem to rely heavily on plot-crutches. Yes, braided storyline and yes there's usually some kind of medical mystery the doctor ends up solving, but it's never overly predictable in an irritating fashion.

New paragraph here, but I'm still on the subject of the last paragraph (this paragraph is for purely cosmetic reasons), and that is that EVEN though there is always a medical mystery to be solved, it never ends up feeling formulaic. My theory is that this is because the cast of characters is so strong.

Point three. Excellent array of characters. You have your gaggle of village girls who wander around the neighborhood, popping up here and there to make cat-calls at the men. And sometimes they call the doctor a tosser. I have no idea what that is. I suspect it's a derogatory term, but since I'm not British I can hardly find it offensive. And that's why I feel comfortable writing it here, on my blog. No need to explain it (if you're British and feel like enlightening me). Anyway, the gaggle of village girls always cracks me up. What a waste of time! I mean, the girls. They're wasting their time. But it's totally amusing. "Heeeeeyyyy Al! Hee hee hee." "Heeeeeyyyy Doc Martin...." Etc. 

You have the plumbers, Bert and Al Large, who sometimes seem like the worst possible thing that could happen to your sink. And there's the village pharmacist with her eternal crush on the doctor, "How about tea? And we could finally go over those MHRA journals together..." who's never seen without her neck brace, but somehow feels she must be attractive, nasty neck-brace and all. There's the doctor's sweet Aunt Joan–really his only family at all (you get to meet his parents in an episode and wow, they suck). And of course, the love-interest: the gorgeous and kind (though sharp-witted) Ms. Glasson.

The doctor and Louisa Glasson. Don't worry: it's a dream.

I'd try to describe all of these characters better, but I'm no Dickens after all. The point is the show is fast-paced enough not to feel like it was done in the 70s (I tried to watch the old Hawaii Five-O one time and fell asleep), while maintaining a kind of small-town luster that makes you want to disappear into a country village and soak up the local color. No kidding. Local color.

P.S. And don't even think of suggesting that it's like Little House on the Prairie. Unless you always LOVED that show. In that case, it's a modern Little House on the Prairie meets House. Loads of houses here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Is It So Wrong to Be a Little Obsessed?

A few people who I shan't name have mentioned that I get obsessed with things. They were talking specifically about the television show Doc Martin with a glancing reference to Dr. Who, as though it's a BAD thing to become obsessed with such quality story-telling and character development. 

Sometimes it's best to describe things as what they're NOT rather than what they ARE, even though I don't think I'd be remiss in describing how great these two television shows are (though they're worlds apart in subject matter). Like so: at least I'm not watching soap operas. At least I'm not watching and obsessing over Jersey Shore. At least I'm not absorbed in the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or any other show of that nature.

Not that there's anything wrong with those shows. Well, I mean, I guess it depends on who you are and what your value system is. I suppose by the very fact that I'm saying "at least I'm not . . ." I'm implying that there's something wrong with a show like Days of Our Lives.

I guess I'll just say it. Soap operas are crap and I have no idea how anyone has ever gotten tied up in them. The sets are weird. The lighting is weird. The actors can't act. And the stories are so full of totally improbable scenarios that no one in their right mind could ever buy into the plot twists.

Also, the characters all seem to be egocentric and unlikeable.

Perhaps the problem isn't the shows I get obsessed with. Perhaps the problem is that I tend to get very absorbed in things. That IS the problem. And it's a problem for me too, because I find it extremely difficult to buy into anything halfway and in the long run, it ends up having been a waste of time. A phase. And I usually come away empty-handed.

The fact is that I can't go one hundred percent into anything, really. I'm not even one hundred percent invested in Dr. Who. If someone told me Dr. Who was doing a convention in Salt Lake, there's a good chance I wouldn't go, even though it'd be easy for me to attend. And well, would I attend? Probably not.

I can't even be one of those people who'd wait outside a theater to meet the actor of some show I'm obsessed with. Because, what would I say? "You're amazing. I love you so much. Your work is the best!" That sounds stupid and really, are they amazing? No. And do I love them? Not really. I love the character they portray and sadly, that character doesn't exist in reality. The only true statement I could possibly deliver that would even matter is that they do good work. And it's just not worth it.  Because they don't care what I think.

And that's why I don't get into anything one hundred percent. 

Despite all that, I still love Dr. Who and Doc Martin.

I think the term for a fan like me is a rainy-day fan. Once I see through it or the glamour wears off, I'm gone.

Where was I going with all this? Oh yes. I merely wanted to know what was so wrong with being obsessed with a show. The shows I get obsessed with (just like the books) are GOOD. I don't fall for crap. And despite how quickly I might move on, I'll defend to the death that the bits or pieces I WAS in love with (like season 1, that was the BEST! Or "it was good until so-and-so left or stopped writing or died, etc.") were worthwhile and amazing and well-done.

Like Eccleston was the best Doctor. And Fringe was good until the writers went all berserk. And Alias was gripping and excellent until they started getting all creepy supernatural. And Simpson's was fantastic except for those wobbly, questionable seasons starting right around the 14th season (or so). And so on.

In the end, I still haven't said my piece on Dr. Who and Doc Martin.

Is it wrong that I feel ridiculous saying (even with all the love I feel for it) Doc Martin and I'm talking about the show and not the shoe company?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What the? Hello. Again.

Whoa. May 26. That's the date of my last post. Well, I HAVE written between then and now, but I haven't posted the entries. Because they were inappropriate.

Not really. They're fine, but long. And I didn't edit them quickly enough and put them up before I had to get back to the baby. Oh, and I had a baby on June 8th. Did I mention that? Yep. Since then my life has been like unto a hurricane.

Adapting to having a child is no cake walk. Neither is it a walk in the park. It's more like a being shoved out of a plane at twenty-five thousand feet with no idea how to operate the parachute. But it's great. It really is.

Oh, and did I happen to tell you that I lost my voice from an allergic reaction to the pain medicine (Percoset) they gave me for the post-op recovery? Yeah, I did. Because I had a C-section and so, you know. I had to recover from that.

Enough about the baby and having it, though I must say, my son is the bomb. He's seriously perfect and that's good because I lost my voice for him. I feel like Ariel in the Little Mermaid, I got the baby but lost my voice. And really, that's no cost at all. Just my voice.

The difference (and ONLY difference...) is that Ariel was young and gorgeous what with that red flowing hair and all, and she didn't need her voice. I'm old and decrepit and can't sway anyone or anything with my looks. So without my voice I'm pretty much crippled.

People ask me if he's not worth it. And by people I mainly mean my mom, who has had to listen to me whine and complain about not having a voice for almost three months now. Oh, right. That doesn't make any sense. How can I complain without a voice? I manage. Somehow.

To be more clear, I have a voice. Sort of. HALF a voice. My right vocal cord (or fold, as the experts say, I gather) is paralyzed. So I don't know if I'll croak or whisper when I open my mouth and try to speak. It's disconcerting to say the least.

Right. Right. I wasn't going to talk about my voice any more.

At least I can still type, eh?

What I really want to write about is how I've had a lot of time to watch Netflix these days, what with having to sit down for hours on end to feed the baby, and I've bonded with several shows (I think this is because of oxytocin...somehow). And so I want to write about my unhealthy obsessive love for Dr. Who and Doc Martin. Yes, I've only spent time watching shows with doc or doctor in the title, which is purely coincidental. So, that's a preview of things to come: Doc Martin. Doc Who. Doc Watson (I also watched the Masterpiece Theater Sherlock shows).

I feel like I'm not making much sense. This post is like drunk dialing. It's late. I'm worn out. And I'm trying to make sense of seven different topics that don't really blend well. It's a tossed salad of ideas.

The next post will be better. I promise. I just needed to break the silence.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Conway Twitty: "Goodbye Time"

I might have a baby soon, and so I want to leave this video with you until I'm back. It's not a song I knew before finding this video, and it's kind of an 80s style recording, but I love the emotional performance. That's one of the things I love about Conway—how much he puts himself into his voice. And it's always kind of comforting. Like when I hear a Conway song, it feels as though I've come home. Weird, because I only became a fan a few years ago after buying a record on a whim.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Families, Lies, and Cicadas...What?

I feel as though I've stumbled on a a kernel of wisdom and that it's my duty to share it. It's not much, really, only that the great lie I bought into earlier in my life is really just that: a lie.

I guess there might be caveats, and I'll get to them in a minute, but the lie is this: your job is to grow up, get your degree (or your professional training or whatever it is), and move away from home, to strike out on your own and become rich or successful....far away from mom and dad.

For some people maybe this formula works. I guess, if you have a family you can hardly stand or you really think your career is you, that YOU, are not made up of a long line of ancestors who sacrificed their all to bring you into the world (I don't know, maybe they sucked or something), and you really don't NEED familial support. Maybe it works. Maybe the thing I'm calling a lie or a fallacy is your truth.

But I tend to think that universally, humans require each other. And the each other we have been designed into, is a family unit. So we're lucky in that sense—that automatically if all goes well, we're born into a network that's interested in our survival and willing to make sacrifices on our behalf. We grow up and are bonded to them not just through blood, but through the recognition that no one else on this earth cares more about us than our family.

Of course, I do speak of the best case scenario. There are people who truly do have families that struggle, that can't get it right, that are not enlightened enough to recognize the value of these things. Hopefully that will change, for them.

Mainly I'm talking about myself, anyway, because I'm tired of living far away from my family. It was fun at first and I learned a lot about myself and it made my relationship with Stoker really strong. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

But we've been gone for a while now, and our siblings have had kids and their kids are growing up fast and reaching milestones in their lives and the rest of our family will gather for things and be together and make the next generation of our family feel loved and supported—which is so important, I believe—and I'm not there.

Yes, when I was growing up, my siblings bugged the crap out of me. We fought and got irritated with each other, but sometimes we got along. That was pretty rare, I'm sure. The only thing I wanted was to get out on my own and not feel them breathing down my neck, telling me what to do (somehow, in my family, I fell into the role of being the One Who Needed to Be Bossed Around the Most...seriously. I got no respect, and I'm not even the youngest!).

But now that we're adults, they're the people I love the most out of everyone in the world, and I admire them the most and best of all, and even with how stupid and annoying I am (from time to time, on rare occasions), they still love me and want to be around me.

Problem is, now we all live in different states and I live the furthest away.

BUT, maybe I'd never appreciate my family as much as I do without having been (essentially) living in exile out here in this jungle. Right now I can hear the 13-year cicadas (Magicicada, Brood XIX) going crazy in the trees through the closed windows and WITH the air conditioner running, and I'm dying to be back in the arid desert of Utah. Yes, yes, it was voluntary that I came here and so it's unfair of me to call it exile. However, I've been trying to get back out there for years now (one way or another).

Also, I have to say that I appreciate the climate of Utah much better now than I ever did before. I found out, living here, that I have the desert and mountains in me and I'm out of place in a humid subtropical region.

I'll feel out of place until I can be back out there permanently, where my internal geography matches up with my surroundings. Some people move away and love it better than what they left behind. Others of us move away and feel homesick.

In any case. The big lie is that family holds you back. That every kid should grow up and strike out on their own, far away from home. The only thing that does is make you feel disconnected. What connects us to the human family is the family we're given at birth. If you have a crappy family, of course, that sucks, but you can build your own. That's the beauty of it—we're all given the power to create. Individuals with unhappy, dysfunctional families can build their own. Hopefully one that's not unhappy and dysfunctional.....

Family remembers who you are. And is it really necessary to leave that behind to succeed in the world? If so, I don't like that kind of success.

And so, without further ado, here are some pictures of the cicadas outside making an electrical mating sound almost as loud as a jet engine. I kid you not. And if the pictures aren't very good, take it up with my Motorola Droid :). It's his fault.

Empty exoskeletons on the underside of leaves. These are on the crepe myrtle in my yard.

The discarded exoskeletons surrounding the same crepe myrtle. 

Close-up of one of the exoskeletons.

An adult cicada of the Magicicada genus.

My neighbor just started mowing his lawn. Guess who's louder? That's right. Cicadas: 1, Mower: 0.

In case you're wondering, I'm pretty sure there are NO cicadas in Utah. Hmmmm. Welp. Maybe there are and I simply never noticed them before.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Conway Twitty: "Easy Loving"

This is one of my favorite songs.

It's getting harder to find live recordings of the great old country songs, especially with embedding enabled. If you ask me, and I know you wonder what I think, this is a really stupid move for the labels. How do they think music spreads these days? Youtube. Sharing. Embedding. When I hear a great song from a video, what do I do? I go buy it. It's not rocket science.

I posted a song by the Civil Wars recently, but I only bought the album because I could hear the entire song from the bands' YouTube video. The small sample provided by wasn't enough to make me feel like buying it. So what I'm saying is that Universal and Arista and whoever owns the rights to all the live TV recordings done by the legends of country music, should be drudging up the videos from their archives and posting them on YouTube for younger audiences to find. And they will find it. And they will end up buying it.

Duh. It's like I have to hold their hands or something. They have no idea what's going on. I guess that's why all the studios in Nashville are closing down—because, like all the industries that are currently becoming obsolete, we have dinosaurs running things.

Anyway, I love Loretta and Conway together. Not all the songs, mind you—admittedly some of them are um, crappy. But the good ones are really, really good. I almost posted a 1980s live recording of Conway at the CMAs, just because it's awesome despite being so 1980s country. But I know my audience loves the old southern suits and polyester styles worn by country artists prior to the 80s. And deep down, EVERYONE is secretly in love with Conway. Women and men.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not Being "the Best" and Contemplating a Possible Move. Plus Some Stuff About Vaccines.

So the past couple weeks I've been getting bigger and more miserable. That's why I've disappeared, sort of. It'll happen.

Plus I had company for a few days and then I was recuperating from having people stay at our house, and things just keep spiraling out of control. Did I mention that I was also undergoing a rigorous re-interview process to keep my job? Yes, that was fun too. I had to take a couple personality tests and editorial tests and just a bunch of crap.

And then I found out I'm apparently not one of "the best." Because the company wanted to assemble "the best team possible moving forward." Or some nonsense like that. So in January, I'll be asked to leave. January. But to get a severance, I must continue to come to work and do a "satisfactory job." Until January. I'm glad it's just "satisfactory," because that's obviously the best I can do. You know, not being "the best" and all that.

Anyway, I came to work today and the two lights above my desk have completely burned out. They were going slowly. There are like three or four lights in each fixture, but today they've all burned out. I'm in darkness here. I feel a little bit like Milton, from Office Space. I think that's his name. Tomorrow I'll show up and won't have a desk. Or it will be in the tiny store-room where people go to spray crap on artwork.

See, I've been really honorable, I like to think. I've worked here for almost five years and during that time, though the temptation has been extremely profound, I've never stooped to writing about the workplace. By writing about it, I mean really making fun of everyone and everything here.

And what has my honor gotten me? What does honor EVER get anyone? Usually nothing.

I guess the point of honor is to just be honorable. There's not really a reward, except the reward of an eternally clean conscience. I do like having that.

But I also wish I'd thrown caution to the wind and done more writing about the ridiculous. I love the ridiculous. And there's loads of it here. This place is ripe for parody. Even better than "The Office." The problem is that I tend to suffocate anything that I consider a base desire. And sarcasm and humor at the expense of others has always seemed base to me.

Yet, do I care now? I work in the publishing industry and it's crumbling. I only started working here four and a half years ago and since then, the only thing this company has done is lay people off. I'm actually surprised I lasted this long. So, really, while they've been paying me to come to work every day, they've also really instilled this crazy sense of instability into all their employees. "At any minute, YOU TOO could lose your job. So don't ____ with us."

Welp. At least I'll have my benefits long enough to have the baby. Right? Silver lining.

One thing that's been really consuming me, now that I have enough outfits for a newborn, is diapers. It's weird. I'm not exactly Misses eco-friendly or anything, but the thought of throwing away a trillion disposable diapers disgusts me. Especially after living through the late eighties and seeing the piles of disposable diapers in the landfills. Remember that? I think we got to see them in a the Scholastic Weekly Reader. They were brainwashing us early, those environmentalists.

So my younger sister got me on the cloth diaper thing. And of course I keep realizing I need more diapers. So then I spend several hours researching which wool diaper cover I want or what fitted cloth diaper will be good for the nighttime. And I read forums. Like Diaper Swappers. (I apologize for the abrupt change of pace, going from discussing my job to cloth diapers, but I really wanted to address something that's been bugging me since I read it.)

The other day I was researching nighttime cloth diapering solutions for newborns and I stumbled across a thread where one forum-poster listed herself as being the wife of so-and-so, the mother of so-and-so, and other neat facts about herself and her family, one of them being "non-vax."

You heard me. Yes, she's bragging about endangering the rest of her community. Unless, of course, she lives out in the woods alone, or something.

Bragging about endangering the children of other parents. I mean, that's something else, really. Baffling. It's not enlightenment. It's sheer stupidity and selfishness. This is particularly important to me right now because there have been several cases of outbreaks in Utah, where I'm from, of diseases that should be gone, and the numbers of people who are not vaccinated seem to be growing. And of course, those diseases are spread by the people who have consciously chosen to not vaccinate their children.

Recently there was a measles outbreak, spread by an unvaccinated family who went to Poland. There have also been several cases of pertussis (which requires a booster shot for adults to not spread it to babies and children). Now that I'm about to have a family of my own, we've been hoping to move back to Utah. Why stay here now, right? I haven't been selected as "one of the best" to be on the team "of the best." It's like the choice made itself.

So anyway. Do I want to go back to that apparent hotbed of unvaccinated deep-thinkers? It's the LDS crowd who are doing it, I think (not to insult them. I'm LDS myself).  People on the outside—especially ex-LDS members—love to call Mormons sheep. But actually, in many ways they're extremely thoughtful. To the point of blaming vaccines for things that are not the fault of vaccines. And thus we have this high population of unvaccinated individuals spreading disease. And bragging about being non-vax. And going abroad to parts of the world where extremely contagious diseases still run rampant. Like Poland.

I propose isolating all conscientious vaccine-objectors in the Pacific Northwest where they can hang out together and die together of measles, mumps, and rubella, in addition to pertussis and polio (it's totally going to make a comeback). Who better to surround yourself with?

The problem I have with them not isolating themselves in an area with others like them is that they benefit from the willingness of everyone else to become vaccinated by mingling in regular communities of people who blindly (to the objector's mind) submit to vaccination. Without all those other people taking precautions (and, in their minds anyway, taking the vaccine risk), the unvaccinated would be in more danger. And it will sound callous, but they deserve to be in danger because they made a choice.

Yes, the children had nothing to do with the choice. It's the parents gambling on their child's life and it's sad that they don't value it more.

The problem is partly that there are specific vaccines infants can't get until they're older. But the diseases don't wait to strike until the baby has been vaccinated. A three week old baby can die from pertussis, who can't get the vaccine until six months. And yes, babies do die from pertussis.

All this to say that, to me, at least, bragging about being a conscientious objector to vaccines is tantamount to bragging about speeding through a school zone when school's just let out. You're endangering a community and you don't give a crap. It's all about you and your individual choice, made at the expense of a community that needs herd immunity to protect itself from the ravages of deadly diseases. So, good job. You're really awesome and smart and waaaaaaaay more enlightened than the jerks who just let the doctors vaccinate them like mindless beasts in a feed yard. Yep. The rest of us are just cattle. Moo!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Conway Twitty: "Don't Take It Away"

Lest you forget the most brilliant country singer to ever make women swoon, I'm posting another Conway video. It's been a few years, but I think it's best that I never stop posting Conway videos. Yes, I still love him. How can I not? Check out that hair and those smokey gazes. And I sincerely believe country artists should never, NEVER have stopped wearing Nudie suits. That was a big mistake. BIG mistake.

Also, here's a video that I can't embed. But it's also brilliant.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Happy Endings"? More Like "Crappy Endings"

I don't like to wish for anyone's failure. It seems rude. And not very classy. That being said, I'd really be happy if the show ABC's "Happy Endings" fails.

After I watch a really good show on television and another one comes on that's pure manure, I wish the network could hear me changing the channel or turning my TV off. But that would be creepy. So I'll just speak here, on my blog, and hope that ABC is paying attention. I know they have nothing else to do but peruse the blogosphere to find out what really important people like me think.

Here's more about what I think. It was terrible. Part of the time I left it on with the volume turned down and the acting was unconvincing, even without sound. With sound, I'm sure I would have longed more heartily to be able to punch each actor in the face.

I could liken the arrival of this show on the TV scene with that moment in "So I Married an Axe Murderer" when Mike Meyers walks into the girl's apartment and says, "You know what this room needs? A huge over-sized poster of Atlantic City." And he turns and pretends to just notice the huge over-sized poster of Atlantic City. Very funny and very cute and I love that movie.

But you know what we really really really need on television? Another piece of crap show about single people in their 30s being stupid and self-centered. I love nothing more than to watch story after story of people trying to find themselves when they've already lived over thirty years and still haven't learned how not to be a complete waste of oxygen.

Yes, yes. I have lots and lots of friends in their 30s who are single and I love them and hopefully my criticism of another show about a bunch of dummies (like "Friends") doesn't offend them. The point is that they're actually living that life. They're not sitting around bantering and saying witty things and being deplorable individuals. Hopefully. We're not together all the time, maybe they ARE doing that.

What I mean about not being a complete waste of oxygen is that no one is interesting once they reach a certain age and all they've managed to do is live for themself. They need a cause. There are circumstances where this is obviously an unfair measure of a person—of course I can't account for every single exception, but to name just one, there are plenty of great women who've never married because no one has asked them (not their fault)—and it's not like I'm here to make judgment's about the lives of specific individuals.

I'm merely making the observation that I personally don't find a show about yet another group of losers living in the city with their friends, in cool apartments with furniture and decor totally out of their income range (unless they're also living on entitlements...or trust funds), to be compelling.

And maybe it's just me. Maybe it's because I'm generally exhausted of the overwhelming decay of the family in our society and this show and others like it only contributes to the downward slide by showcasing the awesomeness of remaining single and living with your awesome friends in an awesome apartment in the awesome city. Want to go get beers or go to the club? Yeah? Awesome!

I'm old-fashioned, yep. So it wouldn't be witty of you to leave that comment on my blog (considering the usual clamor for readers to comment on my blog...I don't know what it is, seriously. I guess my tone doesn't encourage feedback....). I know. Yes. Old-fashioned, curmudgeonly old woman here! Point and laugh, please.

If you're thinking there's a lot of built-up resentment bubbling under the surface regarding this issue (people my age remaining single for forever and forever), you're right. There is. And it's not because I'm completely unfamiliar with being single. I didn't get married until I was twenty-seven. It wasn't that I didn't look, either. I dated and had a trillion boyfriends. I come from a culture that encourages marriage and where many people get married very young. So there was pressure for me to conform. I tried. But I didn't want to get married for the sake of getting married. I wanted to marry someone I loved.

Blah blah blah. The point is, even in the extremely oh-so progressive America of today, it is still not the fashion for women to ask a man to marry her. We have to wait for the question to be asked of us. But men aren't doing their job. And I suppose some of that falls to the women, who are somewhat confused about how they ought to operate in a culture where everyone just "hangs out."

I hate to point out the elephant in the room, but why not? I'm not good at burying my head in the sand, anyway, and I have to say, women make a huge mistake when they put on the attitudes of men and strut around acting like they don't give a crap and "hell yeah, I'll sleep with you. On the first date, even. I'm not a prude! I'm a modern woman! Girl-power!"

So, as much as my heart goes out to women who find it difficult to get a man to ask for her hand, I also think this is the bed we've made for ourselves. Women pretend to be men and feel the same way as men about sex and commitment and they do it to their undoing. Uncommitted sex only complicates relationships and as much as I hate the saying "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free," well...why? It's true. Think about it.

Men will often be the first to tell you they think that way. At least the ones who aren't trying to get you to sleep with them. So best ask a really old guy who's happily married and not looking to bag a younger woman. He's probably going to be most honest about it.

Anyway, I know it's a round about way of explaining my disgust with another show like "Happy Endings," but it's all melted into the same ball of wax. Singleness never was happiness*. That's all I'm saying. And I know most people will agree with me. I remember being single. It was me against the world, the universe, etc. Going to bed alone night after night was lonely. Even though I tried to put a good face on it, I really wanted to be part of a team.

The problem is that no one can tell you how to find someone. But shows like "Happy Endings" (from what I could tell from the first episodes, both muted and unmuted) don't help anyone in that search. And really, life isn't about "finding yourself." It's about losing yourself in serving others. And the best place to do that, historically speaking, is in a loving, committed relationship.

*I don't even want to qualify this statement because it's a given, but I would never make the claim that being in an abusive relationship is preferable to being single. I don't mean that at all. Yes, it is better to be alone than in a loveless or hurtful relationship.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Quick Classification of the Common Reviewers

Sometimes don't you wish customer reviews on places like came with caveats or personal summaries or something so you didn't have to weed through the obvious morons to find the reviews that matter to you?

I think this is a great idea, actually. A company like Google could totally invent a formula to separate the chaff from the grain and make tons of profit on good reviewers while casting the bad reviewers into a fiery pit of torment. Obviously, for subjecting decent customers to their crappy reviews and uninformed opinions, they deserve to be punished.

This is the kind of dross a person deals with when reading through reviews on

The Diva: this is the type of customer who cannot be satisfied by a product no matter how much the product and it's backing company nears perfection. This person expects their life to be a walk through the Garden of Eden, where all creatures sing glorious arias in response to the Diva's presence, the grass bends beneath the Diva's feet, and food virtually falls into the Diva's mouth when he or she is hungry (yes, she or he, Diva is not a gendered word in the Garden of Eden). I personally resent these customers and their reviews because they're hard to detect at first. You can only pick them out when they give you concrete examples of how impossible they are to please. For instance, I recently read a review where, despite the fact that the company listened to the customer's phone call and offered to send the customer a test device (at no charge to the customer), the customer STILL said the customer service was only so-so. It was kind of difficult at first to recognize the Diva nature of this reviewer, but I read fifty other reviews where the customers were extremely pleased with customer service. Also, the reviewer expected a $40 product to cook him breakfast, take him shopping for a new wardrobe, babysit his children, and give him nightly foot rubs using lavender scented oils.

The Idiot: this customer has no idea how to read or write, but somehow they make their way to a cyber-location where both skills are required. They attempt to construct an intelligible paragraph about something they feel really passionate about, namely, why a product sucks so bad and didn't meet up to their expectations. As you lamely try to pick your way through their badly constructed sentences and mispelled words (honestly, why are you even trying? You probably watched 2012 too, didn't you . . .), you realize you can't possibly take this review seriously. There's something disconnected about trusting someone who can't communicate in a reliable way. If they fail to put a simple sentence together and spell words out rather than using txt speech, do you really think they even understood the product they were buying? No. The good news is that Idiots are easy to spot. Unlike Divas.

The Bizarro Jerry: this customer wants exactly the opposite of what you want. It's like they're a mirror image of you. Everything that should be on the left side, is on the right. Like that mole above your left eyebrow. Suddenly it's above your right eyebrow (cue "Scary Door" music). The problem is that you can't really tell at first. You only come to this conclusion based on tell-tale signs and through clever inferences on your end. Take, for example, Stoker shopping for a new pillow. There were a lot of good reviews on this one pillow, and he thought he'd like the pillow, but he looked at the negative reviews (everyone always looks at the negative reviews). Some of the negative reviews said things like, "This pillow is too tall." But Stoker wanted a pillow that was tall. So, that's a positive for him. Right? So, the lesson with The Bizarro Jerry reviewer is to know what you want and to make sure you don't let someone who wants the opposite of what you want, ruin your shopping experience. Of course, this could totally be fixed with a Google formula that could do all the work for you.

The Confused Reviewer: this customer thinks the review area of's website is the proper location for things like shipping issues, complaints with's return policies, or any of the other aspects that have nothing to do with the product or the company that makes the product. They pop in, give a one star, and say something lame like, "They told me this would arrive in too days and it took for days! Fail. I'll never by from again until they make ths right!!!1!!" Usually this sort of review has a couple smarties who leave comments like, "Um. This has nothing to do with the product. Thanks for being a total waste of air. Please walk off a cliff." And those comments are really the only thing that give a person hope after a terrible waste of a review and a completely unjust rating.

For all these reasons, I suggest swift action on the part of Google. Or any other genius with skills in programming and statistics. And whatever it requires to create a formula that will lessen the amount of time it takes me to discern which customer reviews are actually pertinent to me while I shop

In case you're wondering, I'm the Diva reviewer/customer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The "Weaker Sex" Could Never Pull This Off

There are some subjects begging to be written about. I've got some gripes with real estate, in general, but more specifically, the whole agent issue, which I think is a racket. I know, every business is sort of a racket. Anyway, that's a topic I want to dissect further. I also want to dissect the pointless nature of higher education in the U.S. It's pointless because it's totally socialized, yet . . . not. I'll have to go into that further later.

For now, what's really bothering me is how hard it is to be pregnant. I haven't written much about it here, saving my real gripes for Facebook statuses, you know, plaguing my "friends" with my complaints. Don't worry, they love it. It's why they hang out with me, on Facebook, because they enjoy my witty insights and biting retorts.

If you've never been pregnant, you have no way to imagine how rough it is. If you're a man, you're even more in the dark about it. But if you're a man with a wife who's done it, you know better than a single woman who's never done it. That's the hierarchy I've worked out. It goes further, but there's no need to go into all the intricacies of how I judge others who've never been pregnant.

The Venus of Willendorf really captures how it feels to be pregnant. Huge breasts. Huge belly. Huge thighs. In a word, huge.

I'm sure it will pay off in the end and after all, it was my choice. I'm not bemoaning the fact that this just happened without my consent. That'd be sheer stupidity. I'm sure there are people in that boat and my heart goes out to them, but that's not my boat. I'm in the boat of utter shock at how this is completely unlike anything I could have imagined. That is to say, really really hard. And as I understand it, it doesn't get easier.

Stoker keeps saying things like, "You're a miracle." I reply with, "What do you mean?" Because sometimes I'm not sure. I think, "Is he talking about how cool I am? Or something else?" I think he's talking about how I'm carrying his baby, but I don't know for sure, so I ask for clarification. Sometimes, I admit, I just want him to explain himself so that I can hear more about how awesome I am. I do that often, actually.

Like if I say something that I think is funny and he begins to laugh, I'll ask, "What's so funny?" The other day he said, "Another joke I just thought of." He knew what I was going for and out-maneuvered me. Truthfully, sometimes it shocks me that he ever thinks I'm funny. That's his job, right? And he does keep me laughing, but I really don't expect to get that kind of response from him.

In any case, I don't feel like a miracle. Any woman could do this. But his acknowledgment that I'm doing something difficult helps. Somewhat. Some days I want to give up. I wish I could, you know, stay at home in my pajamas and sleep this part away. Maybe it would go faster. Yes, yes. That would defeat the purpose of the exercise. Right? But it would be nice. Kind of.

I keep thinking, one day at a time. One day at a time. One day at a time. Over and over again, so I don't get ahead of myself and then become despondent when I realize that I have seven weeks left or what have you.

When I was a kid, my mom had my youngest sister (my protege, Cassi), and so I remember, if only vaguely, her being pregnant with Cassi and how she seemed to just take it in stride. It didn't seem difficult or uncomfortable. I remember when Cassi was born—it was the last day of school and my dad came to tell me. My due date is around Cassi's birthday, though I doubt that will work out perfectly (though it would be cool and I'm sure she thinks it would be fitting, also). But I confess, I'm a little mad that my mom didn't warn me better how ridiculously difficult this would be. That's her job, right?

But no. She let me walk blindly into this. In fact, she pushed me. Shoved me toward it, as though I'd find fulfillment in it. Her punishment is, of course, listening to me complain. There are some days when I'm full of beneficence and I pontificate on the calling of women and how I'll be a more amazing woman for having done this sort of thing, and how I'm learning patience and how I'm doing what I was made to do and blah blah blah.

The walrus does better in water than on land. I know how he feels. 

And some days I share that stuff with my mom, but usually I'm saying things like, "I can't breathe. I get heartburn just thinking about food. I can't sleep. Coughing is sheer torture. I know it's good for the baby to move, but my liver feels like pate. I can't move. I was ready to have the baby months ago."

And then I explain to whoever will listen, my desire to be one of those adorable pregnant women you see walking around in cute skirts and comfy tops that look perfectly natural, and who smile and appear to be the very picture of joyful motherhood. You've seen them. They're angels. And I hate them. While, admittedly, loving them for being so content and decent, rather than grim-faced grouches with thunderclouds following them around, like me. That's what I look like. Give me a black cloak and scythe and I could be the pregnant grim reaper.

Another Nicole. She does pregnant WAAAAAAY better than I do. I could never pull off this look. But a girl can wish.

There are days when I feel really strong. They probably correlate to the days when I get enough sleep, and those are the days when I want to apologize to Stoker for being grumpy or for behaving as though this is a difficult task. I feel magnanimous and big-hearted and want to tell him that it's not that hard and baby, I'm sorry for being grouchy last night . . . I'm sure I don't say baby like that, but it's funny to write it here as though I'm a real cad normally and that apologies come naturally to me because I'm so terrible all the time.

Well, I probably have been. Understanding my hormonal cycles when there are none is rough. I tried to explain this to Stoker but I think he kind of thinks that I'm moody constantly, even when I'm not pregnant. Maybe I am. But at least it corresponds to a calendar. The moodiness of men is unpredictable. Like me. Right now. Ha!

I think I just described what is normally understood to be bipolar disorder. So pregnancy has turned me into a bipolar monster. But don't worry. I'm dealing with it just fine. No, I don't need medication. I just need more sleep, understanding, and an Italian cream soda (raspberry or blackberry) and maybe some pancakes. Or French toast. I could really go for some French toast right now. Also, I could really do with one of those chairs the fat people use in Wall-E. That'd be fantastic.

Monday, April 11, 2011

George and Tammy Together in Perfect Harmony

I was just trying to organize my music . . . again . . . and I found this George Jones and Tammy Wynette song. I lost it for a minute, but now it's found. And it's so good, I needed to share it: 

George's hair . . . has that ever been duplicated in all of history? It's perhaps the most amazing 'do I've ever seen. Completely unprecedented.

When George says, "Some love lives..." I die a little. It sounds so great.

There's so much good about this video that I don't know where to begin. Well, scratch that. I began with George's hair, which is phenomenal—right up there with a beard of bees. Then I went to George's voice for a second, which is totally awesome . . . just to recap.

So now let's move to George's outfit. I'm not quite sure who told him to wear that brown top with those orange pants, but I'm pretty certain I have about twenty Facebook "friends" who'd love to get their hands on an outfit of that caliber. You can look for hours at the vintage clothing store and come up several pale orange stripes shy of this work of art. And even then, say you find a pair of those pants. Who's going to give away a vest like George's? No one. There was probably only one made like it in the world anyway, and it's most likely in Marty Stuart's country music relic collection.

But my bohemian friends would love this outfit and I sincerely believe the world would be a better place if there were more outfits like it out in the world. Sadly, what I see more often than not are ugly print tees with pointless words on them like "affliction," "disease," and "no fear" in crude fonts, and holey, carefully distressed jeans.

Also, I think outfits like George's would really be doing us a favor if they could replace all the nasty skinny jeans on men. I'd rather see a thousand pairs of striped orange pants than even one pair of skinny jeans on a guy. And it's not just because I'm a huge fan of striped orange pants. I didn't even know I was until I saw this video. And it's only because of the brown and white vest and George's 'do/chops complementing the pants like a gold chain does a hairy, sun-bronzed chest.

As for Tammy. She's great. I love the blue eyeshadow. It's always been a winner when combined with blonde hair and she pulls it off smashingly. She's got a lot of class. You can tell from the ring and elegant necklace. She's gorgeous. And yes, I love her voice. But I confess, I'm a bigger fan of Loretta Lynn. That's just me. As a combination, George and Tammy are fantastic. I can't complain.

Excellent. I know you'll love the video. Please sample it as many times as you like. I think I watched it a hundred times while I was writing this and I'm still not sick of George's hair.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Alexander: A Million Years

I know, two music posts in a row. That's lame, yet I can't help it. I wrote a post yesterday, but it was controversial and so I didn't publish it. You don't even want to know what it's about because the subject matter alone is enough to ignite rage amongst the calmest of folk.

But this song is great. I just heard it and fell in love immediately, like the first time I saw Stoker playing the drums that night in the Factory in Logan. And I dedicate it to Stoker, except that, obviously, we need to switch out the "my girl" part and make it "my boy" but that sounds odd, so let's make it "my guy." And pretend I'm singing it and that I sound good and any other gender references should automatically be the opposite so that it fits with me dedicating it to Stoker. Thanks.

Also, Stoker doesn't wear make up. So that part should be about MY make up. Not his...hmmmm....I hope he doesn't wear make up. I haven't noticed mine disappearing mysteriously...

Ha ha! Kidding! So kidding. I just thought it would be funny to pretend to be suspicious, suddenly. Suspicion is ALWAYS funny.

"It's a spun tongue, it's a holy s%#$......"

p.s. I love it that I no longer have to call the radio station and ask them to dedicate songs to the one I love. Remember doing that? Talk about sweaty palms over nothing! Now all I have to do is post a song to Twitter, Facebook, or my blog and say, "I dedicate this to you, baby." And please don't bring up Delilah. I will never ever never ever call her. Not even when she's the last radio program on FM. Never.

I love cats.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Civil Wars "Poison & Wine"

Um. This is amazing. I'm probably the last to hear of them, but that's nothing new.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Where Do I Go to Sign the "Burn the Fairgrounds" Petition?

South Nashville must be full of idiots. Except me, of course. And Stoker.

There's a lot to love in the area. I'm not kidding, though it may be difficult from time to time to see, because, well, there are A LOT of used tire shops in the area. Some of them in former banks, which is very architecturally incongruent when you can see the tires piled to the ceiling beyond the beautiful glass store front and the columns lining the sidewalk. But hey. You can't lose with architectural columns.

As well, there's no shortage of used car lots ("BUY HERE, PAY HERE!!!!!" "WORLD'S FIRST DRIVE THRU USED CAR LOT!!!!"). And there are plenty of title loan stores and instant cash places. And pawn shops. Plenty.

Beyond these questionable aspects are the cool things. Like the FIRST EVER Krispy Kreme donut shop. Some might want to firebomb the place for having turned donut-making into a Henry Ford assembly line, thus ruining the art of the donut. Not me. Of course...others.

But since we're on the subject, I prefer REAL donuts, like those you can get at The Donut Den in the Green Hills area of Nashville (aka, the RICH AREA). Once in a while a Krispy Kreme donut is OK. Like when they're right off the assembly line. They have that new car smell.

Anyway, there's also La Hacienda, which serves the BEST Mexican food in Nashville. I'm not lying. There's a tortilla factory out back too. I've written about this stuff before, I think, so I'll spare you.

In any case, there's a lot to love. And lots of people are saying (or were saying, anyway) that this area was gentrifying. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But I'll tell you one thing that's really not helping.

The idiots who want to "save our fairgrounds."


Let me get this straight. These people would choose to KEEP a pile of crap Pinto rather than trade it in for a Mercedes? Essentially that's what they're saying.

You know what MIGHT happen if we got rid of those stupid fairgrounds? That piece o' shee (to quote my sister) tire recapping shop, whose lot looks like a biohazard (I swear sometimes I think, "I'm seriously going to call OSHA." I don't even know if OSHA cares about stuff like that, but this Dumpster looks like a nuclear waste site at the end of the day, every day), might actually GET LOST because it sucks so bad, and without the lame race track at the fairgrounds, I'm pretty sure the dude who runs the shop will want to move it closer they need a tire recapping shop.

And if we got rid of the nasty fairgrounds, perhaps then some PRODUCTIVE businesses might decide to move in. And maybe property values would increase. Yeah, I know that would increase property taxes, but at least south Nashville wouldn't look like Germany after WWII, for once.

Honestly, I don't know what it is about the fairgrounds that this part of the city would resist the change. It would be an upgrade.

Is the flea-market seriously THAT important to the economy of South Nashville? Is it? Because, you know, the flea-market wouldn't have to die should the fairgrounds disappear. If the flea-market is so necessary and important and beloved, it will survive. It might have to move, but it would survive.

Same with the teeny-bopper races or derby or whatever it is that sounds like a swarm of bees during summer nights.

And, Tennessee, I hate to tell you, but the state fair is kind of crappy. One would think that a state with such a long history (in terms of U.S. history) and so much agriculture would have one of the largest, most kick-butt state fairs in the Union. It should be as wicked-awesome as a musical, like State Fair (that musical has an awesome state fair in it, doesn't it? I've never actually seen it. But with a name like State Fair.....), with people driving all the way from Knoxville just to get a look at the best pig in show. And all that. You would think!

But no. I went to the state fair last year and it was the most dismal affair ever. It was weak. If it was going to wrestle (Greco-Roman style), it would be in the lightest weight class. Like 110, if that. I know. That's like junior high weight. That's how pitiful the Tennessee State Fair is compared to other state fairs.

What fairs am I comparing it to? Well.

I'm from Utah, as you've probably noticed. When I have gone to the state fair in Utah, there was so much to see and do that I couldn't get to all of it in one night. The Tennessee State Fair? Yeah, it took me a half-hour, if that, to see what there was to offer.

Unfortunately, this map doesn't show topographical changes. If it did, you'd just stay home. It does, however, show how small the event is. The gray stuff is parking.

Plus, it's on a dang hill. Several rolling hills, really. So you walk up a huge hill to the two ticket booths (that's all they need--two ticket booths), pay, and walk up more hill, to the six rides. Then you walk past those to the tiny building where canned things are and the displays about honey and whatnot. There's also a little building for the kitschy, fun things, but there are only like five booths there. Beyond that is a children's play-house size building for the farm animal things. Next door to that there are three rides for the kiddies.

I exaggerate. But only by a fraction. It feels more like a tiny county fair. It really is the smallest state fair in the world. I bet Rhode Island has a bigger state fair.

So, you might be thinking, well heck, what about the gun shows? Yeah, what about them? I've gone to the gun show at the fairground twice and both times it was crap. The actual gun show could be hosted in a banquet hall. I'm sure there's a better venue for the gun show. And, if it's so economically fantastic for gun shop owners, it won't die. It will just move. That's how these things work.

Saving a tired, worn out, ugly site for the mere sake of saving it stunts changes that could be much better for the city and its residents economically. Especially when you consider what a large swath of land the fairground consume just by its mere existence. And for the larger part of the year, that land sits there empty, looking like an eye-sore.

I don't really understand why many of the residents around the fairgrounds are so eager to "save" it. I can only guess. And my guess is that they lack vision.

I wish I could go talk to Karl Dean and tell him, "Don't give up, man. Rip those hideous fairgrounds out and put in a park, a shopping center, ANYTHING. Anything would be better."

Maybe if they can move the state fair to a better location (read, not on a couple of mucky hills), the fair can improve. And compete with the awesome Utah State Fair*.

And finally, to demonstrate the stunted thinking of people around Nashville, I refer you to this site that features this quote:

How do I feel personally about the closing of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds? Well, if you don't already know by now, I think it stinks. This wonderful ole place, one that has given Nashvillians so many great memories, family fun, and plenty of racing history is about to be wiped away in the name of progress. To me, progress would be to improve on the existing property in a way that would also preserve its historical value as well as incorporate and blend with the local neighborhood.
I would wager that Jan Duke doesn't live in south Nashville, near the fairgrounds. Though I might be surprised, since there are plenty of backward thinking fools in the neighborhood sporting "save our fairgrounds" signs. Anyway, it's nice of Jan to give us her opinion. Maybe she can come live next to the fairgrounds, if she doesn't already, so she can reap all the blessings of the important racing history, with all its joyful sounds.

p.s. The "local neighborhood" has largely been stunted by the presence of the fairgrounds. So, in addition to the few homes in the area, there's the Coke bottling plant, several industrial type complexes, dismal and run-down looking liquor stores, a plot of land that seems to store rail-cars, and a mobile home park (that was wiped out during the flooding last year). So, yeah, let's BLEND the fairgrounds with the neighborhood. Real great idea, Jan.

*Lest you think I'm simply full of home-state pride, my friend from Kentucky said the Kentucky State Fair is also a million times better than the TN State Fair.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Pro Red Cross Post

I want to throw out my support for the Red Cross right now, as events unfold in Japan.

I know everyone is most likely pro-Red Cross, but before last May, I wasn't. I mean, I wasn't anti-Red Cross, I was just skeptical. And I know admitting that will only further your suspicions that I'm as insensitive as I always joke of being, but it's worth the risk to convey that I'm now a Red Cross supporter.

Before last May, I was suspicious of what the Red Cross did with their donations. I had seen a pie-chart somewhere that showed that a large portion of donations went to administrative support, and that bothered me for some reason.

After the flood in Nashville last May, the first group to notice what was happening and rush to our assistance (at least, they were the first group I saw) was the Red Cross. I remember driving down Franklin road and seeing their vans and trucks at a church and feeling enormously grateful to have them there. I might have cried a little (sometimes my icy heart melts).

View of downtown Nashville from East Nashville after the rain stopped during the May 2010 flood. 

When you can't simply pack up and leave because you LIVE in a place that's just been destroyed by a natural disaster*, the presence of someone from the outside world (so to speak) is a source of comfort and solace. Someone has noticed and is there to help. As resourceful as an individual can be and as prepared as they might be before a disaster, there's a point when a person can't do much more and must rely on assistance.

I know this because even though I had practiced emergency preparedness before the flooding last year, water can wipe out all you've done very quickly. It comes without warning, almost. And if you've put your emergency supplies in the basement, and the basement is the first thing to take on water, unless you can move it quick, the water takes it (this happened to us).

The same goes for tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis, which can dismantle all your careful preparation in a matter of seconds.


The day Stoker and I saw the Red Cross at that church, serving my city, my heart changed. I think I said as much to Stoker and I told him about the pie chart I'd seen depicting where donation money went and he said something like, "Well, an organization that's going to be first to respond like they do is probably going to need to spend a lot on administrative work. So let them spend it like that, if it's going to help them get to the scene quicker. After this, I'll give them money any time they need it."

And it's a good point. He's right, and logistically, an organization that responds as fast as they do (and I've seen it with my own eyes; they're FAST), is going to have some serious overhead to deal with.

It was good to feel like someone had noticed what was happening in Nashville. No one else did, really. I remember that the Tide, Loads of Hope trucks came eventually and helped people wash their clothes (so I think they're great too), which was also invaluable, since water was being rationed because one of the water treatment plants was down. So many people had no clean clothes after the flood. Their houses were wiped out before they could pack up and run (many people had to swim to safety).

In any case, I'll never be stingy when the Red Cross is asking for help. I never paid close attention to natural disasters and relief projects until I had gone through my own. I know Nashville was fairly overlooked last May because there were a bunch of other good stories for the media to focus on (read: stories that could be used to further political agendas), such as the sinister-sounding Deep Water Horizon crisis and the bomb scare in NYC.

I'm not saying those things weren't scary or important. But I tend to think that because the flood in Nashville couldn't be attributed to a specific political party in some way, it was overlooked. No one whined about being a victim. There was no way to turn it into something that could help the liberal or conservative cause. It just happened and it sucked.

The problems in Japan are incredible. It's frustrating and sad and my prayers are with them. The media is going wild over it not only because of the amount of devastation, which is truly horrifying, but also because it will inevitably be angled against nuclear power, not that this has anything to do with the Red Cross. I just had to say it because it's true and it was waiting for me to say it. And I took the bait.

Anyway, I think the Red Cross is great. I know the people of Japan will be thankful for them.

*In case you're skeptical of the amount of damage middle Tennessee endured because of the 2010 May flood because you never heard about it, here's the Wikipedia entry (which has some statistics), video montage, and some news footage.

More Reasons to Cancel Your Facebook Account

Perhaps the best part of Facebook is the fact that you can gawk at the apparent traffic accidents of your friends and family's lives as they crash and burn. And, not only that, they essentially televise it for the entertainment of all their connections in some kind of proud display of their total awesomeness . . . so, that's even more heartening to think about.

This only works, of course, if you have an opinion about what people ought to be doing and the choices they ought to be making. So the safest way to approach Facebook is sans opinion, and since I can't do that, the few moments I check in to Facebook, I often end up selecting "hide all posts by X."

I know. I'm such a jerk that I would want to shield myself from the torture of thinking, "Holy crap! What on EARTH are they thinking? WHY WHY WHY, FOR THE LOVE, WHY ARE THEY DOING THAT?"

Also, I'm such a judgmental toad to think that my values, ideas, and expectations are right and not totally unrealistic. These are, after all, just people being people. Right?

Sorry. But I take a different tack on that kind of stuff.

People aren't just people being people. There is good, bad, and evil (as I covered in my recent Charlie Sheen post), and when you sow good, you reap good, and so on. And no, this isn't just "the human condition" as I used to think while still in college. Yes, yes, believe me. I was one of those naive idiots who worshiped the notion that there's really something beautiful about human suffering, existence, and "the condition."

I went to movies at the art cinema in Logan, Utah and thought deep thoughts, spurred by the artistic statements being made by truly creative independent film makers. I'd go for walks late at night and stare at the glow of windows emanating from the houses lining the streets and weep to Wilco's "Sunken Treasure" (because, I mean, that's a great song. And I still think that. But I also think, "Buck up, man!" so, yes, I am probably an insensitive jerk if I can think that about such a gorgeous song) as I pondered my place in the universe*.

So, I've been there. Done that. I want you to know, because it's imperative to understand that I haven't just arrived at this location on my lifelong trajectory without having passed through my own valleys of shadow and whatnot. I've got SOME experience. I've made lots of insane choices and suffered lots of undesirable consequences.

But luckily, most of those choices were made before Facebook existed. So no one had to feel like they were right there with me, watching me being a complete moron. I mean, I'm sure my mom and dad saw some of that and it probably ripped their hearts out, and for that I'm sorry (for real). I wish I had always been such a stellar individual and had my head on straight one hundred percent of the time (or at least, seventy-five percent of the time). Heh heh.

Which is the big problem with Facebook. One of them, anyway. Right now I'm thinking about this one, where I get to log in and witness the final descent before someone's life explodes into burning wreckage. The key is that it's because of their choices, not happenstance. Happenstance is sad, but forgivable. It's not their fault.

But consequences for stupid decision-making . . . that's just frustrating. Irritating (they KNEW better, how could they do THAT?). How hard can it be to not make dumb choices? I find it devastating. Too difficult to watch. And with Facebook, if I don't defriend or cancel my account, I have to deal with it nonstop.

Isn't getting away from the destructive behavior of certain friends or family part of the relief of growing up and moving away from that person? Not that we intentionally run away, but unless we want to surround ourselves with constant pain, something's got to be done.

So hide their updates. Do it. It will set you free.

That's what I tell myself.

And really, all I want is for everyone to not be naive and realize that their choices and actions don't occur in a vacuum. We are all watching each other. We see and feel the suffering of our friends and family. We share their joys and disappointments. And sometimes it's absurdly obvious when someone is sowing manure (while thinking, I suppose, that they're planting corn). They're going to end up with a pile of crap and you know it. How can they not see it too?

*I don't mean to imply that the human condition isn't interesting and sometimes, in a way, beautiful. Because there are moments that are transforming and inspiring, and it's quite nice to see a film or read a book that catalogs this in a breathtaking way and makes you feel like the spirited individual can triumph over whatever obstacles they face. However, the dark side to the "human condition" stuff can be the notorious ripple effect. And Facebook magnifies this problem.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Head Staples

There's a serious problem in the world today. I can't fix it. I wish I could, but, sadly, I'm just one woman. And this problem is an avalanche.

What is that problem, you ask? I know. You long to hear about problems because you haven't enough in your own life. You love whining. You love listening to people complain about avalanches, snowballs, and landslides of problems.

So that's why I'm going to tell you. Also, it does me good to get it off my chest. I can barely breathe and it's not just the baby being all selfish with the limited space in my torso and crushing the air out of my lungs (can you believe this baby?!).

The problem is clarity. Let me give you an example. This is from a story I read on a news site:

Meanwhile, C____ H_____ received seven staples in his head after the car nicked his right shoulder as it went airborne into the front porch. Doctors put his arm in a sling. His wife, S____, is still reeling from the experience.
I took the names out, obviously. I don't know these people and besides, I might complain about the entire story and I have nothing against them as individuals. It's the quality of the story itself and lack of a theme. Lack of everything, really.

I know I tread on dangerous ground to criticize someone else's writing. It invites scrutiny of my own writing and I'm sure there are several areas where I could improve, however, I'm not being paid to write. Nor am I part of the machinery of the AP or any of those behemoths producing material for the news agencies.

And I understand that journalists are often given assignments they resent. I'm sure it's crappy to have to create an article from material you don't care about. That's why I'm not a journalist. I did it for a few weeks, loathed it, and quit.

So this paragraph I shared with you. It's so horribly done, I can barely stand it. So C.H. received seven staples in his head, you know, like when I receive a package in the mail. Aside from receive being a terrible choice of words here, what's worse is the stupid doctors apparently didn't realize the real wound was in his shoulder! Where the car nicked him!

Then, of course, the doctors put his arm in a sling. I think somehow that must be related to the shoulder wound, which got scant attention after his head was stapled seven times (for no reason whatsoever). I imagine the shoulder will heal, because of that sling, but I don't know how long his recovery will take. Shoulder-nickings are on the rise, yet no studies have been done to determine lasting damage and whatnot.

I jest. Surely this is no laughing matter, surely. But the poverty of writing skill demonstrated in the article steals the attention. I'm sure you didn't even notice that what happened in the paragraph is that A CAR WAS FLYING THROUGH THE AIR AND NARROWLY MISSED C.H.

Yeah. That's right. It was difficult to determine the exact details, but what I gathered from the badly tangled story is that a family was out in their front yard on Sunday when a vehicle, recklessly careening down their street, bounced off a couple other stationary vehicles, soared through the air over the small gathering (nicking C.H. in the shoulder) and crashed into the house.

But don't expect such a concise summary of what happened in the original story. If you read it (after somehow finding it, bwah ha ha ha), you'll feel like a prisoner of the labyrinth, picking up a scattered trail of breadcrumbs, which lead you nowhere. It's like the minotaur sneezed and you've got to find where the crumbs were originally placed. That's how scattered the details are.

Originally, Ariadne used a ball of thread to help Theseus in the labyrinth. But for my purposes, bread crumbs have an inherent comedic element that thread lacks. Should you find yourself in a labyrinth, I suggest you follow Ariadne's lead.

Of course, you might argue that C.H.'s head injury is implied by the fact that it received seven staples. So there's no need to clutter up the paragraph with unnecessary details like the fact that while his shoulder was simply nicked, his head bore the brunt of the impact. Like, you know, his shoulder was nicked by the passenger-side mirror and his head was smashed by the windshield.

But if that's the case, wouldn't the greater injury demand more attention? And while I agree that it's clever and interesting to leave some mystery in the telling, there's an immense difference between clarity (bringing back my original complaint) and obscurity. And besides, news articles are hardly the place to concoct a mystery for eager readers to solve. We don't read the paper to get the satisfaction of deciphering meaning. That's the job of fiction.

There are more offenses in the original story. Another paragraph:

On Sunday, police say A____ G____ J____, 20, recklessly drove a Cadillac down [a street], hit the H____’s parked Honda Civic, and then hit a tree. That catapulted the vehicle J_____ was driving on top of a Toyota Corolla and Jaguar parked in the P___'s driveway. Then it hit their house, further impacting their lives.
So, there are a lot of blanks in there, but you can just substitute any names in. The Civic was C.H.'s car. In a line before this paragraph, we learn that C.H. and his wife were forced to move in with his wife's parents because they've been having difficult health problems.

The main point of the article seems to be that this couple is living the story of Job. Any possible complication that could happen has happened. And then out of nowhere, a car flies through the air and nicks C.H. in the shoulder (requiring seven staples to the head). It does seem rather implausible, but I'm not questioning that. I am, however, questioning the sentence structure of this paragraph.

First of all, sometimes people TRY SO HARD (bless their hearts) to use active verbs that they sacrifice (once again) clarity for ACTION. As though I read the newspaper to get a rush. Yes, the active voice is great. I agree. But what's even better than that? Making sense.

Maybe there's no way to write this paragraph so that it reads smoother*. There are, after all, several makes and models of cars and about a million names. It's like proper noun city in this paragraph. To complicate matters, the writer appears desperate to relate the sequence of the accident while also making sure to paint an accurate picture of the types of vehicles (very important!), but, not only that, he/she also wants to litter the sentences with exciting words like catapult. I question the use of catapult.

Here's why I question the word catapult. Stationary object becomes a projectile....

The first time I read it (and I had to read the paragraph several times to understand it), the thing that stuck out the most was the Jaguar. One of the main points of this short article is to let readers know that a fund has been established to help these people out. But, then there's a Jaguar in the driveway.

I'm not saying it belongs to C.H. It probably belongs to his wife's parents. And if they can afford a Jag, cool. No big deal. But there's a Jag in the driveway. And then there's a fund where I can donate money to help them out. But there's a Jag in the driveway. A Jag. And it's a Jag. Starting at $50,000 for the low-end models. A Jag. In the driveway.

My point is, it doesn't make sense. I'm not saying the writer should lie about things, but too many unnecessary details weigh the story down and all the active verbs in the world don't help me slog through them. And especially it doesn't increase my sympathy to the point of donating when I read that there's a Jaguar in the driveway.

It's like all the scammers in Nashville. One time, Stoker and I were in a parking lot, sitting in our truck and a van with a family in it pulled up. Stoker was on the phone with a client or his boss, but that didn't dissuade the female driver. She left her van to come to our window and asked us to help her out. She needed money for gas to get to Atlanta. Her husband remained in the van, on his very nice cell phone, and the lady left her van running. She'd been driving around the parking lot. Quite a bit.

We didn't have any cash. She left. My question for scammers like that is, how do you afford that cell phone? It's a luxury. If you have no money, sell what you have. Cut back. It's not that difficult.

So when an article asks for my money, but there's a Jag in the driveway, seven staples to the head and an arm in a sling doesn't illicit enough sympathy for me to donate. Perhaps I'm a cold-hearted jerk (I totally know that's not true, but I had to say it, you know, so I don't look like a jerk), but that's not how the relationship works.

I work hard to earn my living, and yes, I know I'm blessed and that it's not all me. Nevertheless, to make me want to part with (basically) my blood, sweat, and tears, you're going to have to show me that your need is desperate. And a Jag or a cell phone tells me things aren't quite as bad as you're trying to portray.

Anyway. Perhaps the author of the article WANTED me to feel like C.H. doesn't truly deserve my money. If so, bravo. If not, maybe, I don't know, the writer should sign up for some writing courses. Or don't. You're not the only one (you, meaning the writer) suffering. You're in good (or bad?) company. The entire community of journalists is on a swift course downhill in terms of good writing. It's an avalanche.

*Police say A____ G____J_____, 20, drove a Cadillac in a reckless fashion down D____ street on Sunday, careening into C.H.'s parked Honda Civic and a tree, which launched the Cadillac onto two other vehicles parked in the P___'s driveway. But the Cadillac didn't stop until it crashed into the P___'s house where it (describe the damage in a three words).