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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

As I grow older--and, I fear, none wiser--the temptation to grow far too introspective near year's end takes hold, especially around Christmas, a holiday fraught with the peril of traditions handed down from generations of family upon family and heavy with the burdens of so many added tasks and stressors. It's easy to become overwhelmed and isolated. Things look impossible, or at least incredibly difficult.

This feeling is not new, I found out. Writer Julia Peterkin put it aptly in A Plantation Christmas:

I hear that in many places something has happened to Christmas; that it is changing from a time of merriment and carefree gaiety to a holiday which is filled with tedium; that many people dread the day and the obligation to give Christmas presents is a nightmare to weary, bored souls; that the children of enlightened parents no longer believe in Santa Claus; that all in all, the effort to be happy and have pleasure makes many honest hearts grow dark with despair instead of beaming with good will and cheerfulness.

That was in 1934.

As we rush headlong into 2008, plugged into life digitally and otherwise, I hope we try to give ourselves a break. I hope we find some peace. I hope we try.

And I hope the effort isn't so very hard after all.

Merry Christmas from The Dept. of Nance.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Lights Are On, But Nobody's Home


Although I've been teaching for 26 years, I still often forget that many teenagers are just not that tuned in to anything that doesn't directly concern them. I mean them directly, such as their cell phones, their Ipods, their driver's licenses, their curfews, or their social lives. So, I still get an enormous shock every now and again when they express their unmitigated ignorance of the world around them, especially politics.

(Naturally, I realize that I am a political junkie. Politics is, for me, like crack. I am addicted; I need it to live. Politics informs everything I do. It's sad, really. I'm trying to quit.)

But I digress.

A few days ago, I was giving my students their daily quiz on their reading assignment for The Scarlet Letter. I assign three chapters a night; they come in the next day and I ask them a half-dozen questions aloud, which they write the answers to. It's a quickie way to assess whether or not they read the chapters and also a nice way to force them to read. (Honors kids do anything for points.) Anyway, one of the questions was: What does Hester Prynne say was the result of her one meeting with the Black Man? (In the context of the book, which is set in 17th century Puritan New England, said "Black Man" is, of course, in their parlance, the devil.)

Jokingly, I said, "And don't go writing down a Vote for Obama button!" Several students in the class chuckled and, heads bent over their papers, wrote their answers.

One girl looked at me, bewildered. "Huh?" she said. "Who's that?"

I stared at her. "Really? You have no idea who Barack Obama is?" I asked.

"No," she said. "Why?"

"Do you watch the news or get a newspaper at home?" I asked her.

"We get the paper," she said.

A couple other students in the class said, "I don't know who he is, either."

"How can you not know who he is?" I said. "His picture is everywhere. He's been in the news, on tv, on magazines, everyplace! I am absolutely shocked! Don't any of you ever watch the news at all? Please tell me that you know something besides entertainment garbage!" They all just looked at me. I turned back to the original student who was still sitting there, absolutely devoid of any sort of interest in anything at all except a piece of her hair. I said, "Okay. Never mind. You at least know what country we live in. What country do we live in?"

She stared at me, mouth open. A full three seconds went by. The class waited patiently. Several students had the decency to look shocked. Finally, her mouth formed the answer.

"North America. Right? RIGHT!?"

Remember, I teach Honors.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Three Views Of A Marriage Or Canonizing Rick


**Scene Opens**
Interior of Nance's new car. Rick is in the driver's seat, Nance in the passenger's. Time is recent past.

Nance: Rick! Did you have the brake on when you put the car into 'Drive'?
Rick: Um, I think so.
Nance: Well, you have to. You have to have the brake depressed to start the car. And to put it into 'Drive.'
Rick: Then I probably did.
Nance: (audible sigh) You know, you have to drive this differently. It's a hybrid.
Rick: I. Know.
(Some time elapses as they drive. Soon, Rick accelerates to pass someone on the highway.)
Nance: Rick! You can't just jam on the gas like that and go hurtling into traffic! This is a hybrid!You have to accelerate smoothly. It's part of the way the engine works to use fuel efficiently. This isn't your old Ford Ranger you know, where you just punch on the gas pedal like you're killing a cockroach.
Rick: Oh my God, Nance! Do you want to drive?
Nance: No. I just want you to drive my car properly, that's all. Apparently, that's a bit much to ask.
**End Scene**

**Scene Opens**
Interior, night. Rick and Nance are in bed. Time is a couple nights ago. Rick suddenly gets up and gets out of bed.

Nance: Where are you going?
Rick: I have to check to see if the back door is locked.
Nance: Well, do you have to fling back the covers like that? You uncover me, too, you know.
Rick: Well, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to.
Nance: Why must you leave a chair or a bed with such vehemence?
Rick: Huh?
Nance: Seriously. Even Emily notices it. When you get out of the recliner, you leave it rocking so violently that she--
Rick: (interrupting) Good God, Nance! Emily is a cat!
Nance: (calmly) I'm aware of that. That's why she can't help but notice. (pointedly) She's usually in it when you leave it heaving like some sort of cataclysmic geologic event!
Rick: I can't believe we're having this conversation.
Nance: Well, you started it.
Rick: How?!
Nance: By exposing me to the arctic blast of you leaving the bed with such violence.
Rick: Can I do anything right?
Nance: We'll find out when you get back in. Try not to uncover me.
**End scene**

**Scene Opens**
Exterior, day. Rick and Nance are in line at the Christmas tree farm. Time is Saturday. They are waiting to have their chosen tree put on the shaking machine, which rids the tree of all dead needles and detritus before it goes into nifty baling machine that wraps tree for transport home.

Rick: This is a pretty nice tree. And we found it in record time.
Nance: I know. I'm impressed. Usually, I'm more picky.
Rick: So, all we have to do now is take it home and put it up.
Nance: I just noticed something...
Rick: (in voice of doom) Oh no. What?
Nance: After they shake all the crap out of the tree, they lay it back down and drag it right through more crap to get it to the baler.
Rick: (relieved, then...) Yeah...they do. (worried now, he glances at her)
Nance: That's just stupid. It doesn't make any sense. Does it make any sense to you?
Rick: Um. No. I guess not.
Nance: So, basically, they are just shaking crap out, then putting crap back in.
Rick: (resignedly) Yep.
Nance: (thinking) Hmmmm.
Rick: It's our turn.
Nance: It just doesn't make any sense.
Rick: You already said that.
Nance: Oh well.
Rick: (face wreathed in relief) Let's go.
**End Scene**

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmas Kickoff...Complete With Crocs And A Six-Pack

Now that it's December, we here at the Dept. can officially recognize the Christmas Season. I really feel like I've given Thanksgiving its due, right down to serving leftover turkey dans la sandwiches avec la sauce d'airelle for at least one dinner when I didn't feel up to actually cooking something. (Hey! I used some lovely Hungarian bread that I had to slice, even! Gimme a break.)

But I digress.

As readers may recall, we had something of a controversy last year when I inadvertently jumped the gun on the Season, but there has been no such breach of Holiday Etiquette this year. Tradition is a powerful thing, especially at holiday time. And the people at Staten Island Mall certainly learned it the hard way this year.

Marketing manager David Albertson made up his mind to get innovative this year at the shopping mecca and decided to depict a Santa at home on Mondays through Thursdays. When stay-at-home Moms in the Staten Island, NY, area would bring their wide-eyed tots in for a Kris Kringle visit, they'd find Santa a bit more casually dressed. Rather than outfitted in his traditional red velvet suit trimmed in white fur, the everyday Santa kicked back in a green plaid lumberjack shirt, red suspenders, and red pants. To top it all off, he was wearing green-and-red striped socks and red Crocs. His red velvet coat hung nearby.

Customer Maria Borruso was shocked when she brought in her 15-month old son Nicholas in for photos and a visit. "I was completely disgusted. I didn't think it was appropriate," she said in a telephone interview.

**Editor's note: Naturally, I am assuming she is talking about the Crocs, first and foremost. Crocs are both disgusting and inappropriate, of course, not to mention impractical for the North Pole from a purely climatological standpoint. Add in the fact that there is no way in hell that Santa Claus would ever wear Crocs--a man who is such a traditionalist in every fashion sense of the word--and Ms. Borruso has every right to be shocked and disgusted. Moving on.

Ms. Borruso continued by saying that she opted not to have Nicholas's picture taken with Santa that day in his present incarnation. "My son could have been sitting in any old bald man's lap."

Albertson said that feedback regarding the At-home Santa idea was largely positive, but acknowledged receiving two complaints. "Some people like it, but some people don't," he said. Store managment, however, must have received substantially more, for they decided to put a more traditional Santa back in place seven days a week. As far as the other idea, Ms. Borruso remained firm. "It didn't fly with me," she said. When reached later and told of the switch, Borruso was thrilled.

And Albertson? "Some battles are just not worth fighting," he said.

Oh, I don't know, David. New traditions have to start someplace.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Of Edgar And Literature And Abraham Lincoln

Occasionally while lost in the throes of literary passion, I forget that I am in a room full of jaded, ultracool sixteen-year-olds who find much of anything written before say, yesterday on their cellphones, pretty extraneous and boring. I get all excited and emotionally invested in what I'm talking about--flinging myself about the room, perhaps even welling up a bit and getting verklempt and all, gesticulating meaningfully--and they watch, not the least bit amazed or impressed. Oh, at first they were frightened, sure, but now it's become so commonplace that they just sort of wait me out until it runs its course and the moment passes and I come back to them.
This week, it happened with Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar is...well, I feel like I am A Special Defender Of His Memory. This man has been so vilified for so long that I never let an opportunity go by to set the record straight on his story. (And, yes, I am on a First Name Basis with him. I've studied him and his works and taught him for so long and protected his legacy so unstintingly that I feel I have the privilege.)

I always start out introducing Edgar by asking the students what they think they already know about him. They trot out the usual crap: he was a drug abuser. Wrong. He was an alcoholic. Wrong. He was crazy. Wrong. Sigh. About the only thing they get right--and gleefully announce--is the fact that he married his 13-year-old first cousin. That much is true. Then I tell them the whole story of how he called her "Sissy," how he lived with Virginia and her mother for a time and was concerned with the scandal it was creating, how he and Virginia were childless for their entire marriage, and how the most recent scholarship says the marriage was likely never consummated based upon the above and other letters and evidence. I tell them about how Edgar's biography was first written by his archenemy, Rufus Griswold, and how it became the accepted story. And then, I tell them to look at the photo of Edgar in their textbooks while I read them a better bio of his life. And I say, "Can you just see the terrible sadness in this man's face? Look at him. His whole life was one of want and loss. He practically gave his genius away. The story we're reading today was sold for only ten dollars! Let's give it more than that for him." Later, as the students were analyzing the story in groups, one group called me over to ask me a question about the story's theme. We talked about the evil inherent in man, and man's instinct to struggle to survive. I related it back to Edgar's life. "Poor Edgar," I said ruefully. "I just want to go back in time and try to save him from it all."

The two girls smiled at me. "Oh, Mrs. D.," one said. "You can't do that. Then he might not have written all these stories. And then Stephen King might never have written any of his stories. "

"That's true," I said. "But, haven't you ever looked at an old photograph of someone and seen something in the person's face, in his eyes? Something that told you what that person had seen or been through?"

"No," one girl said, eyeing me cautiously. I think she was starting to worry that I'd be off again into one of my little spells.

"I hate old pictures. They creep me out," said the other girl.

I was undeterred. "Well, I have a thing for Abraham Lincoln," I began (probably an unwise choice of words, I soon realized by their expressions). "I read books about him like crazy, for some reason. And when I look at his picture, into his eyes, it's like I fall in. I can just completely get him. I find him fascinating and human and incredible. But his pictures; I can't explain it. It's not entirely like that with Edgar, but I care about Edgar."

Just then, another student in another group raised his hand. As I moved away, I heard the boy near the girls' group say, "What was that all about?"

"Mrs. D. was talking about Poe and Abraham Lincoln," one girl said.

"Yeah, she kills me," the other girl said. "Now, I'll never be able to look at Abraham Lincoln's picture the same way again. Or Poe's. She does that to me a lot."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Merci, Gracias, Dankie, Amyaji Chezu Tinbade, Yokoke, Dank Je, Mahalo

OUR COMMENTERS!

Now that it's deeply November, we here in the U.S. of A. have entered into that dangerous Wad O' Time known as **THE HOLIDAYS**. (Of course, if you believe the Retail Giants, we entered into that WO'T right around September 30th and never get out of it until July. Except on February 15th, when we are allowed to take a small breath right before they put out Cadbury Cream Eggs and chocolate bunnies and bikinis and sunblock. Because you know, then it is time for Easter and Memorial Day and Fourth of July. But I digress. Who, me? La.)

In the midst of all of these festivities and hubbubberies (I did just make up a new plural there), it is easy to lose track of things that are important to us, the blogging community. Born out of this concern and exigence was Thank Your First Commenter Day, a blogging community holiday brainchild of Neil, host of Citizen of the Month. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2005, Neil decided to use his blog to thank his very first commenter for giving him some validation for putting himself out there in the blogosphere. He suggested that all his fellow bloggers do the same. I did that and thanked my first commenter, St. Jim of So. Maryland for commenting on one of my very first posts back in my early days of blogging, now over 2 years and some 204 posts ago. Even though St. Jim is a friend of mine, it still was exciting to have a comment and some feedback on the Internets. Regular visitors to the Dept. may notice that St. Jim has been in absentia for some time now. Perhaps I have thanked him too vociferously and he now thinks I am stalking him. Which I am not. (I don't stalk anyone these days, except maybe occasionally Daniel Day-Lewis and that is primarily out of habit. A bad, old habit that is, like smoking for some people, hard to break and almost instinctive in nature.)
Sigh.

Bearing that in mind, I am adapting Thank Your First Commenter Day this year a bit and simply thanking all my commenters. Let's face it, all of us bloggers are a bit vain and/or egotistical in our own way, or we wouldn't be putting it out there on the Internets for everyone. We would be squirreling our innermost thoughts away in password-protected Word documents or scribbling them in inky longhand on countless spiral notebooks hidden in cartons deceptively marked "Tax Receipts 1985-1990" under the steps. We want to be read. And, more importantly, we want to know we've been read!

I love my commenters! DO YOU HEAR THAT? I LOVE YOU, MY COMMENTERS! I love that you read DEPT. OF NANCE and that you have something to say. Being naturally chatty myself, I automatically want to respond to you. So I do. In comments. Such fun! Thanks a bunch for chatting along with me. And if you've never commented before, I hope sometime that you do. And, St. Jim, thanks again. And sorry if I've frightened you. Sigh. It's only once a year. Tradition, you know. And as for you, DD-L, oh never mind. I'm so over you it's not even funny.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I, Nance, Do Solemnly Swear, To Do My Duty...


For years I have fantasized about the Dept. of Nance being a real Department. As my masthead says, I do believe that the government needs me. Someone has to right the smallish wrongs being perpetually perpetrated everywhere in our otherwise civilized society. It has become increasingly clear to me over the years that we are, in fact, unable (or, even more sadly, unwilling) to do this ourselves. I am happy to do this task. It is bipartisan in nature. Both Democrats and republicans seem to commit these egregious faux pas and societal sins, so I can work within the bounds of any administration without interference. I am a separate entity, beholden to no one. I can be funded by the Supreme Court's order and a constitutional amendment in perpetuity.
Or whatever.

I do not require a huge office, just a moderately-sized one with adequate ventilation and good natural lighting. I do not need a big staff, just a secretary and one other assistant who may even be part-time as long as he can drive me as required as I will not be driving myself since I do not plan to drive in Washington, D.C. It is too trafficky and strange to me. Finally, I will not clean my own office. I will, however, supply and water my own plant or plants.

Once installed, I will immediately act. Much like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I will begin a strenuous agenda of reform and will, within the first 100 days, show my vigorous commitment to making life better and more civil for the American People. Here is my short list of what I will do:

1. Require all theaters to install cell phone jammers.

2. Require all sit-down restaurants to take reservations regardless of party size.

3. Ban all inflatable lawn decorations.

4. Decree that all underwear is visible in public only at fashion shows.

5. Ban all leggings. Forever.

6. Decree that all Christmas decorations, music, displays, sales, and ads are prohibited until December 1st. The only exception made will be for craft stores. Period.

7. Require spelling to count ALL THE TIME, EVERYWHERE.

8. Ban the sale of Crocs except at swimming pool stores and garden centers, where they belong.

9. Reinstate Pluto as a planet.

10. Ban the mention of celebrity birth, marriage, public brouhaha, or rehab issues from legitimate news broadcasts.

11. Bring back the following retired Crayola crayon colors: blue gray, orange red, raw umber, violet blue, lemon yellow, orange yellow, and mulberry.

12. Ban the wearing of baseball hats by anyone not at a baseball game.

13. Make "telling someone about this dream I had" in detail a felony.

14. Abolish call waiting (a.k.a. "licensed rudeness").

15. Prohibit anyone over the age of 12 from wearing animated characters on his or her clothing or person.

I could, of course, go on and on and on and on. But this is, as I said, my short list and will likely occupy much of my first 100 days. (That, and decorating my office, hiring my secretary and assistant, and selecting my plant or plants. Plus, I will have to acclimate myself to Washington, D.C. Heretofore, I have only been there as a tourist. Once it becomes my workplace, I will have to view it in a new way, as a Beltway Insider. ) I trust that, in Brainstorms, you'll give me more to do.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Salmagundi: Politics, Gravy, Madison Avenue, Brian Williams, and Verbal Vexations


On Sundays I wake up, make some coffee, grab The Cleveland Plain Dealer off the front porch, and settle in for over an hour of reading and shopping-by-advert. Then, by 10:30, I hunker down for Meet the Press with Tim Russert and whoever he's got on the hot seat. Most of the time I'm hoping it's not a republican because Sunday is traditionally supposed to be a Day of Rest, and I get way too steamed up and hectic if I have to debate one of Them. They sit there, pretending They cannot hear me, regardless of all the cogent and salient points I make, and I end up irritated and frustrated and all hackled-up for the rest of the day, almost, in my Democratness.
It's just not good.
But I digress.

Today in the PD, Macy's has an ad for their bigass Veterans Day sale. (Macy's is always having a big honking sale, so I never take them seriously. If you ever go there and pay full price for anything, then you are foolish and perhaps stupid. Between their coupons and shopper's cards and sales, there is simply never a reason to.) Anyway, in the ad today, there is some jewelry. A strand of "genuine freshwater 8mm pearls." Now, get this: the original price is 80 bucks. The sale price is 40 bucks. But for Veterans Day, you can pay only 19.99! What does this tell you about Macy's? Does it tell you that: A) they are really honoring those who fought in the service of their country? B) they care deeply about the consumer? C) their jewelry prices are incredibly jacked up to begin with and are not to be taken even remotely seriously? Oh, I think we all know the answer to that one. And that is just one example of the ridiculousness in this ad.
Supposed $320 Liz Claiborne suits are being offered for $59.99. My friend Sue used to work for Macy's and said new shipments arrived with the tags already marked down and stickered with the sale prices. Alrighty then.

How exciting is this: Brian Williams is broadcasting The NBC Nightly News live from Cleveland, Ohio tomorrow night. Sadly--and I wonder if this is directed entirely at me--they are keeping the final location of his remote broadcast site confidential. Sigh. Because, as you know, I would absolutely recruit Rick to drive me there, possibly with tasteful forest green cravat in hand, to witness it. In total silence, of course. I respect his journalistic integrity. I have even given thought to what I would wear, had I gone to see him. Tomorrow's weather is forecast to be overcast with a possibility of showers and a high at 6:30 PM, EST of 56 degrees F. I would wear my black pencil skirt, black sweater with red cami and my tartan pumps. I would have to wear my black leather jacket and possibly employ my red tartan umbrella, which, when not in use, would be at my side, tastefully rolled. Brian, know this: If I knew where you were going to be, there I would be also. Tastefully attired, and giving you quiet and fashionable moral support.

Barack Obama was on Meet the Press today, and I was again struck by the irritating proclivity all politicians have developed lately, republicans and Democrats alike (and believe you me, it pains me tremendously to have to say that), when speaking in interviews or in debates, to use the very rude imperative "look" as a sort of address, absolutely to the point of nastiness. When Tim Russert asks a question, they say, "Look, what we've got to do in Iraq is..." or in a debate, they say, "I'm not saying my opponent is wrong, but, look, the point is...". Not to pick on Obama, but he really beat it up today. I went back and read the transcript and in his 40 minute interview, he used "look" as an imperative a staggering 14 times! I'm sorry, but that's just awful. And it always sounds petulant, rude, and well, bossy!

And while I'm at it, here's another thing Obama's interview got me thinking about: this constant badgering of candidates who say they're anti-war but vote consistently to fund it. Russert got Obama on that one, too, and Hillary's gotten it ad infinitum. Is it just me, or is this The Most Disingenuous Question Ever? Who in his or her right mind is going to sit in a big comfy chair in Washington D.C. and play a game of Political Chicken just to prove a point and leave thousands of soldiers in hostile territory with depleting supplies? Why is this question even a question? Is the person asking it even remotely serious? Why hasn't someone called them on it? Like Joe Biden, who has to be the sanest straight-talking non-PC guy up there in the Dems' row. Am I missing something? Please tell me because I hate being an idiot and not knowing it.

My snark level rose a bit yesterday because I had to go shopping in our local "Lifestyle Centre." Which is a snobby way of saying "upper-crust stores that are not housed in a mall, so I had to be cold and walk in the wind even though Rick drove me right up to the front door of Express because he is wonderful like that." I realize that, when I choose (read: have to because no other stores have my size in decent dress pants in NE Ohio) to shop there, I am going to necessarily deal with a much, much, much younger demographic sensibility. To be brief: the music was way loud. So loud, in fact, that Rick waited outside for me to shop for pants. Which took almost an hour. So loud that the salesgirl had to bend down and put her head to my head in order for us to communicate. I felt like crying. Or screaming. Or both. Later, I went to Bath and Body Works to buy another bottle of Lavender Vanilla body mist perfume, which I love.
And, they apparently no longer make. !?!?!?!? I love this scent. It has been my perfume for years. I am constantly told how good I smell. I am serious when I say that students come up to me and just smell me. And now it is no longer available. Oh, they continue to make it in lotion, candles, bubble bath, and something called "pillow mist", but not in perfume. This is unacceptable. I am completely bereft and pissed. I am...berissed. Or...piseft. I'm mad.

Finally, (and thanks for staying with me, whoever you are) let me just give Thanksgiving its due since hardly anyone else (except for the folks at Butterball) does. For many, it has become a stumbling block in the path of the Christmas Juggernaut. But I love this holiday, for which no one has to go mad shopping for gifts, mail out cards, do a ton of decorating, buy special music, or string up lights on every conceivable edifice. Thanksgiving means getting together with family and possibly friends and making and eating comforting food, like turkey gravy. To me, turkey is the best possible flavor of gravy ever. And I am a huge fan of gravy. My dear friend Ann from Florida, who might love gravy more than I do, once said, "As far as I'm concerned, most food is merely a vehicle for gravy." I hear that. I am all about the rest of the dinner, too, though. This year, it's my turn to have the kind of stuffing I want, which means adding cornbread. I don't know why Rick and Sam and Jared even care; they eat massively no matter what.

So, how about all that? And, what's going on in your head this Sunday?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Day The Music Died


These days, everyone's got an Ipod and everyone's listening to them practically 24 hours a day. Many of my students arrive to my class "plugged in," and the first thing they have to do is yank the buds out of their ears and wind up the wires and stash all the equipment. (I have a "no electronic or digital equipment of any kind" rule in room 245, period. Even their calculators can record, store text, and serve as Cheating Devices. It's incredible. But I digress.)

I have an Ipod. I got it by default. My husband had it sent to him free as a promotional gift because he is a Cleveland Cavaliers season ticket holder. It's one of those Ipod Shuffles. I was the only one at the Dept. who didn't have an MP3 player, so I ended up with it. Rick loaded it up with a bunch of MP3's that were on our computers, leftovers from the Napster Frenzy of CD Burning, and I was presented with my Very Own Customized Collection of Music.

Which I almost never listen to.

I also rarely listen to the radio or CD player in my car, put on the stereo or radio in my house when alone, or listen to any music when I'm taking one of my 45-minute baths. Right now, I'm typing this post alone in my home office, and the only sound is the forced-air furnace and the tapping of my keyboard. I could put on a CD, bring up Pandora in a separate browser window, or turn on a radio. I could even stick the earbuds of my Ipod into my ear and listen to my favorite songs. But I won't.

It's odd, isn't it, this lack of music in my life? Sometimes I think about it and try to trace back to where it began. It's relatively recent, I think. I don't know when music stopped being pleasant and soothing and started to simply add to the cacophany of my life--serving as yet one more thing I had to think about.

Radio is the worst. Too many commercials and interruptions. And, no, I'm not going to start paying for radio. It's bad enough I have to pay for television. I'm not in my car long enough to really listen to radio much anyway. But if I actually would hear a song, it would be at the end or in the middle. Or, if I heard a song that I didn't feel like hearing, then I had to flip stations endlessly. It's too annoying. So, I gave up on radio, except for NPR, but when I found myself listening to someone droning on and on about--and I'm not kidding here--Norwegian Folk Metal Music--I realized that I was turning into something that wasn't fit for society. I leave the radio off.

And I don't even keep CDs in my car. Again, it's just become noise to me. A CD by one artist invariably contains one or two that I don't like. And then, I have to skip. Or, I get bored. Or I find myself trying to figure out irksome lyrics. Pretty soon, I'm driving and trying to get a handle on the music stuff.

I'd rather have the quiet. I'm a public school teacher in a building of over 2000 teenagers. My whole day is full of talk and chatter and humanity. But no music. I still wonder at my new aversion to music.

When I was younger, my taste in music was largely informed by my older sister, Patti. She was a child of the sixties and a Beatlemaniac. In addition to the Fab Five, she turned me on to artists like Three Dog Night, Carly Simon, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Yes, Electric Light Orchestra, and The Moody Blues. I'm forever grateful for that.

Later, I listened to Seals and Crofts, Cat Stevens, and anything Elton John put out. I went through a brief KISS period (didn't everyone, now really!) and bought KISS Alive! on vinyl and wanted "to rock and roll all night and party every day." But I got over that and moved on to disco like everyone else and stopped following actual artists and sold out and just went to clubs and danced to horrid music that had an incredible backbeat.

But then came the Eighties, and that's the music that I really still love. Or loved? Or choose to listen to when I think of music. My Ipod has Duran Duran on it. And "Voices Carry" by Aimee Mann, then with Til Tuesday, and Flock of Seagulls and Thompson Twins and Bowie and Dire Straits and Fleetwood Mac (so 80s--they ruled the 80s) and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and George Michael (before all of that) and Rod Stewart and Talking Heads (come on, "Once in a Lifetime!?" listen to it!) and Wang Chung and The Cars.

Now? Hell, there's like, no one now. Music, quite frankly, stinks now. I hate most of it. Rap? Please. That's not music. It's nagging. If I want to hear someone yammer at me, I'll call my mother up and finally tell her some of the stuff I used to do in college. Awhile back, I liked Train. But their latest song is crappy. I liked Anna Nalick. But she only put out one album; I played it to death and her career is, apparently, dead. Not too long ago, Gina put up a video of a good song by a band, Aqualung. I liked it, so I had Rick download, er, get me some more songs by them. But I've only listened to them a couple of times and I don't like all of them. That's how it is with me and music. I get disappointed and I give up.

But, my point--and I believe I did have one and I am getting back to it--is this: at some point, the music left my life. I find it disconcerting and aggravating to listen to any kind of music. I am bewildered by the number of my peers for whom music is still a large part of their lives. I wonder if silence is anathema to them, or if they do balance the music with quiet. I realize I am in the minority; it is I who is the oddity.

And it wasn't always this way.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Brian Williams' Worrisome Career Move


In an absolutely startling career move--whether it's upward or downward remains to be seen--The King of Cravats, The Parliamentarian of Ties, that Nobleman of Neckwear, my news anchor crush Brian Williams will be hosting Saturday Night Live tomorrow night.

This brings to light several concerns.

First and foremost is how on Earth will I stay awake? I haven't been able to stay awake, even on Saturdays in the summertime, past 11:30 pm since I was about 30. Don't suggest coffee or Red Bull (how the heck do people drink that stuff? And is it carbonated? Because if it is, I automatically cannot drink it. Ever since going on my migraine medicine, I can't drink anything carbonated. Except champagne. I've managed to find a way to drink that! But I digress.) because caffeine late at night doesn't really keep me awake, it just makes me pee. A lot. But now you're tragically overinformed. (So what else is new at the Dept.?)

Secondly, if he wears a tie, or several ties (not all at the same time, but it is a comedy show...), is it incumbent upon me to do a Report? I would guess not since the title of the Tie Report is actually "The NBC Evening News' Brian Williams Tie Report", although I suppose I could do a special report. But, that sounds way worky for me, and I am nothing if not slothful by nature.

Thirdly, what if seeing Brian Williams do comedy makes me lose respect for him as a serious journalist? I have to admit, there are times when he is on location and wearing his hideous, ill-fitting shirts that my admiration fades just a wee bit. And, on occasion, when the camera pans down and shows that seriously ill-advised belt that he wears with the ostentatious silver accoutrements, I find myself cringing and my thoughts straying toward one tall, silver-haired, bold-cravat-wearing David Gregory (who fires some really snarky queries from his White House press room seat and gets called "Gregory" by The Angel of Death who actually looks like he wants to weep rather than call on our Hero). Imagine if the SNL cast makes Brian Williams don a toga or a chicken suit or some such undignified garb! (Oh my god! Could you imagine Brian Williams in short pants and a beanie with a helicopter propeller atop it? And carrying an all-day lolly?) Quelle horreur!

Finally--and this is really the big worry--what if he sucks? Really, now, what if he stands there and just lays a big, fat old egg? How will he--or more importantly, I--recover from that? Will I just lie in my bed, under my comforter, and softly whimper? Will I become bitter and blame it on the lousy writing of the inferior Millennium SNL team? Will I soldier on till the end, hoping it gets better or just turn it off at the musical guest?

Did Peter Jennings ever do SNL? Did Tom Brokaw? I know Walter Cronkite never did. If Brian Williams takes the comedy world by storm, we might see him hosting the Oscars. Then, winning one! And after that...?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

If There's A Law Against This, Then I Am Way Overdue For An Orange Jumpsuit Fitting


There's a tired old bit of conventional wisdom about profanity being the crutch of people with lousy vocabularies and, quite frankly, I find that to be a load of crap. My command of the English language is something about which I am both inordinately vain and proud, yet I find that, in certain situations, nothing gets it done like good, old-fashioned cussing. Let's face it, swearing feels good. It releases pent-up frustrations, channels anger in a nonviolent direction, and likely rids your body of free radicals and aging phototoxins or some such other junk. It probably saves me approximately eleventy billion dollars annually on expensive spa treatments, cosmetic surgery, and Oil of Olay In A Drum. All that just from saying The F-Word when the button to open the microwave jams. Again.

Imagine my dismay, then, when this news item came to my attention recently:

WOMAN FACES JAIL TIME FOR SWEARING AT TOILET
A West Scranton woman could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300 for allegedly shouting profanities at an overflowing toilet while inside her Luzerne Street home. Dawn Herb, whose potty mouth caught the attention of an off-duty police officer, was charged with disorderly conduct recently, prompting her to fire off a letter to the editor and vow to fight the charge.

Boy oh boy, is this troublesome. There is a sheriff's deputy that lives behind me, catty-corner actually, and when I deliver a blistering philippic to my electric can opener on a semi-weekly basis--the kind that inevitably begins with, "Why, you son-of-a-bitch!" at the top of my voice, it is entirely possible that he can hear me. Actually, it is entirely possible that most of the neighborhood can hear me. I hate this damned can opener. It's one of those "space saver" models that mounts under the cupboard above. I like that part of it. But, for some reason, it only works about a third of the time. The rest of the time it lets go of the can, or it refuses to bite down all the way, forcing me to send the can around and around and around about forty-seven times to get the fricking thing open, or it completely comes apart and I'm left with the entire opener apparatus stuck to the can which is still unopened. Then, the real yelling starts. Please, do not ask me why I have not purchased a new can opener. I really do not know. What am I waiting for? you may ask. Perhaps I am waiting for Rick to rescue me by coming home one day with a new can opener of his own accord. Perhaps my natural stubbornness and innate frugality are merely winning this war. After all, as often as I use this can opener, is it worth it to buy a new one? And let me stave off any queries regarding the Usage Of A Manual Apparatus. None of those in the house are operational, either. I know! It's like the Dept. is the place where can openers go to Exact Their Revenge! Sigh. But I digress.

And now, thanks to poor Dawn Herb of West Scranton, I have to worry about starting a shocking career as a criminal, led down the path of wrongdoing by a kitchen appliance. Her citation accuses her of "using obscene language or gestures with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm or recklessly (creating) a risk". This sounds like a lot of b.s. to me. And it does to Ms. Herb as well. “There was no intent to do anything,” Ms. Herb said. “I just feel so violated and irritated ... I don’t even have a criminal record.”

What recourse do habitual users of the more blasphemous invective have, now that we have been threatened with police action? Must we change our ways? Are we to cower in our homes, shut our windows, lower our voices, gargle with cologne to sweeten our jeremiads and lighten our tirades? No, says Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union based in Philadelphia. “It cannot be the basis for a citation. You can’t prosecute somebody for swearing at a cop or a toilet,” she said. “We bring one of these cases a year and sue some police departments because they do not remember that they are not the language police.”

Hear, hear! If there must be Language Police, then let them do the Real Work Of The Language That Must Be Done, such as stamping out "irregardless" or the improper use of apostrophes to make common nouns plural or the constant misuse of "it's" as a possessive. Good God, there's a helluva lot more for them to do than pick on a few of us cussers!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Epiphany

Some things just sort of creep up on you. You know how it is: you look at the calendar and suddenly, it's almost Christmas. Or you realize you forgot about your nephew's birthday. Worse, you pull out those navy pants now that it's fall and the waistband is a leetle bit tight. Where did those pounds come from? You didn't think you ate quite that many Lay's Classic potato chips right from the bag, but it looks like you did. This morning, a new grey hair is glinting at you from your bangs. And the habit that your husband has of leaving the room and leaving the remote for the TV in his chair across the room is now grounds for divorce. It's this kind of stuff that can lurk in the dusky margins of your life quite innocuously for oh, so very long, until one day, any one of them can be The One Thing that it takes to make you stop and Re-evaluate Your Life.

Readers, I've had That Moment. And I am going to share it with you. It was when I realized that Google had replaced my mother.
Oh, I can hear your anguished cries. Your ragged gasps. Your wailing and gnashing of teeth.

All that crap.

Er, lamentation.

Imagine my own dismay. But we all know that the first step on the Road to Recovery is knowing that you have a problem, and once I identified the problem, I knew I was on the way to solving it.

For years now, my mother has been crabbing at me about how I never call her and that she always has to be the one to call if we are ever going to talk at all. This is true. I won't deny that. My aversion to the telephone is well-known. I am not a Social Telephone Talker. To me, a telephone is a Necessary Communication Device, such as: "Hello? Yes, this is Nance. I will be there to meet you at 11:00 A.M. What should I wear, heels or flats? Thank you. Goodbye."

But my mother, who loves to chat on the telephone, cares not for my excuse. "I am your mother," she reminds me. "Don't you think I'd like to hear from you?"

Honestly, my reply in my head is, "Not really. Jared is away at college, and Hell be damned sure he doesn't really want to hear a whole lot from me. Sam is at the junior college and then goes to work and has his cell phone and he never ever checks in, even under penalty of death or vacuuming, so he doesn't want to hear from me. So, no, Mom. I can't imagine why you'd want to hear from me." But, do I say that aloud? Oh, heavens no. She's 78 and she can't really take it, I don't think. (Although...she is pretty tough, and she did raise me, after all. But, I'm more like my father was. But I digress.)

What I really say is, "Oh, Mom, I'm sorry. You know how I hate the phone. It's easier if you just call me. It's not like I'll hang up on you for heaven's sake."

And then she aims really low and pushes the classic Guilt Button: "You used to call me a lot more often."

And I realize that this is true. It really is. I used to call her tons more often. Tons. I'd be doing my crossword puzzle and call her and say, "Hey, Mom! What was the name of the guy who...?" and she'd know it if it was, say, from the 1920s through the 1960s, or in American history at all. Or, I'd call her from the lounge at school if we were trying like crazy to think of the name of some actor who was in an old movie that we were talking about or the words to an old song from the forties. Or let's say I was teaching an American novel that had a reference to an old product, like Ipana in it. I'd call her up and say, "Mom, what in the heck is I-P-A-N-A and how do you pronounce it, even?" And she'd get all excited and tell some bigass story about it from her childhood and even sing a jingle from the radio for it.

Sigh.

Not anymore.

Now...I have Google.

Let's face it: Google has made my mother obsolete. Who needs Patsy June when I have Google? It's faster and it's more complete. AND--I ask Google one question and get one answer. I don't have to also hear about grandchildren, my brother and sisters, my uncles and aunts, or any aches and pains. It's strictly business and one-way. Google is less involved.

Google replaced my mother.

Now that I've identified my problem, I think I've actually embraced it. I'm not even sure it's a problem anymore. Thanks for all your help! You guys are the best!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Politics: No Joke...Except This One


Quickie post, and it's material stolen from Defective Yeti. This has to be the best Knock Knock joke around right now. It is also, however, the saddest and most poignant. I'll be back later with a real post. Here goes.

Knock knock
Who's there?
George W. Bush

Oh, god. Still?
Yes, for 14 more months

F_*k.

Sigh.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh, Canada! And Some Other Stuff While I'm At It


I'm going to start with my biggest idea first and then it will likely go downhill from there. (How many other blogs are kind enough to provide such an endearing caveat, now answer me that, will you?)

This past weekend, Rick and I sneaked back up to Canada--Our Neighbour To The North--for a little trip. (This sparked a rather spirited and Seinfeldian discussion as to the proper terminology for said occurrence. What, really, should we have called it? We determined that "vacation" was a gross misnomer: vacations connote a longer stay than just our Friday-Saturday-home on Sunday-trip. A proper "vacation" must be at least one week, we decided. "Holiday" sounds too affected and British, and really implies something festive and event-oriented; we were not doing much of anything of the sort and are absolutely not British and while I am often affected, strove not to be while in Canada. This time. "Getaway" is certainly useful and very multipurpose, but tends to conjure up visions of spontaneous air travel and the leaving behind of distasteful and chaotic situations that one can no longer tolerate but must return to nonetheless. While this can often describe my career at The Rock, it is really not entirely truthful. We finally settled on "jaunt", which I am particularly happy about since it calls up images of car travel and energetic-ness and small go-look-ats within the short trip itself which is exactly what we did. But, as usual, I digress. Wow. A lot.)

Anyway. While we were sitting in a longish line at the Peace Bridge, waiting to cross into Canada, a Big Idea came to me. I was incredibly bored sitting there, as was everyone else, I am certain. What a missed opportunity, I thought. Here we all are, sitting in lines waiting to cross into an entirely different country, and all we are doing is waiting. (By the way, there were 15 lanes going into Canada. Only 8 were open. Why? I have noticed this phenomenon in banks, grocery stores, and other establishments. Why even build all those checkouts/lanes if they are never going to be utilized? If you are going to only have, say 11 lanes open, then just build 11. But I digress.)

So, back to us all waiting. I turn to Rick and say, "You know, this is a huge waste of time and resources. Why doesn't Canada take this amazing opportunity to entertain incoming tourists? Or educate us? There could be a huge slide show featuring famous Canadians! There could be wandering singers, or a figure dressed up like a moose and a Mountie. They could have a curling demonstration. There are tons and tons of Canada-intensive things that could be going on right at this moment, but instead, we are sitting here worrying about what they might ask us at the border and how long they will take. Remember at Sea World how they used to have a barbershop quartet that entertained the people in line who were waiting for the show? It made waiting less tedious. Canada should do that. But no mime. Never a mime." (There's never a reason for mimes. Never.)

And this could be going on for the U.S. side as well. I'm not just picking on Canadians. I would never do that. I am a fan of Canada. And Canadians. It's well-documented. But anyway, what do you think? I think the idea has merit, I really do.

Next up: my blog. I have put up a poll for all of you to vote on my latest attempt to alleviate my boredom by changing the color scheme on my blog. Thanks to the 7 of you who have exercised your democratic voices. (Seven, really? Can you not humor me just a little bit? Can you not...oh, good heavens. How pathetic am I, really?) Please feel welcome to offer any color scheme ideas in comments. Offer any topic ideas in comments. (Offer me menu planning in comments, but only if you're going to come here and shop for the groceries, too.) Seriously, I wish I weren't so persnickety about color and appearance; I'd just whomp up the basic template and be done with it. Why am I such a frickin' project? (Rick asks me this every day. He mutters it, though, and is astounded that I hear it.)

Related topic: The Tie Report. I do this mainly for me (and for Brian, but you know...it's almost as if he doesn't even read it!) and will continue to, but I wonder if any of you Fairly Newcomers even are aware that it exists. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please scroll down my sidebar to read my nightly report on the tie being worn by Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News. If you're thinking, "What? Why on earth would I want to read something as dull as that?", then clearly you need to read it.

Oh, and can I just be a homer for a moment? HOW ABOUT THOSE INDIANS?!

Rick and I stayed at a small country inn while in Canada; our room was charming and lovely, but it had no television. We went down to "the lounge" (that's Canadian for "living room") and watched the baseball game with other guests from Connecticut, Detroit, and Canada, all of whom were Indians fans. We chatted and cheered and had smart, lovely conversation. I was in heaven. As a matter of fact, I was in heaven pretty much the entire weekend: excellent wine, good food, delightful innkeeper, intelligent and pleasant company in the inn's breakfast room, and no rain. And I've finally gotten smart: I'm not telling anyone where we stay. Too many people know and it's nigh unto impossible to get a room in the summertime. Don't ask me! I mean it, now!

Last item: While shopping in Canada, I passed several times a store selling not only the hideous Crocs, but the little doodads that stick on them. Every time I passed the place, I said energetically, to no one in particular, "Stop selling Crocs!" It was my personal protest. I feel good about that.

And all this other stuff, too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yawn.


Let me warn you now--the only reason I'm posting is because it's been about five days and it's time. I usually post about every five days, and I don't want to lose readers by not following through on the informal contract I've established here at the Dept.

But I've really got nothing to say. I'm at that stage right now where I'm that ten-year-old brat who's standing at the front door on June 15th, bathed in glorious sunshine while her mother is inside doing laundry, feeding the baby with one hand and unloading the dishwasher with the other, and I'm pushing my forehead through the screen whining, "but I'm bored!"

It's terrible. I have a really low Boredom Threshhold. I start handing back student papers in class, and I stop and make my aide do it because I get massively bored. I hate the whole tedium of it: look at the name, walk to the kid, hand the paper to the kid (sometimes waiting for the kid to realize that I'm standing right there in front of her with her paper in front of her), turn around, repeat ad nauseum. And the grading! Right now, I'm grading the Act II test of the Arthur Miller play The Crucible. There are two essay questions. Imagine reading the same responses 95 times. That's what I'm doing. I want to stab my own eyeballs out. I mean, I realize that it's necessary. And some of the responses are well-written enough that they are not a punishment to read. But it's not like I'm reading for pleasure here. I'm reading the same stuff over and over again. I have to. They have to include certain things in their responses. It's what I'm measuring. It's that time of year, you know?

And I'm continually bored with dinner. What does everyone feel like eating? What do I feel like making? Or, where do we feel like going? Blech. Who cares anymore? Do you know what I had last night for dinner, left alone to my own devices? Here it is, in order: a half-pint of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut-butter ice cream, a handful of Lay's potato chips, a half sandwich of cold meatloaf. Oh, and later, for a snack, a half of a bagel with a slice of Swiss cheese. Does this sound like the meal of an A.D.D. Refrigerator/Pantry Grazer or what? It's pathetic and sad. And it's all because I am intensely bored.

I'm already bored with The! New! Fall! Television! Lineup! . I wanted to watch "Journeyman" because it sounded like it would be very similar to a book I loved, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Instead, it got bogged down with a dumb secondary plotline and a completely unnecessary character and bored me senseless. That happened to me with "Heroes" last year. I started watching it, but soon realized that they were going to keep introducing character after character after character in a mindless and ceaseless parade for no apparent reason. I got hugely bored. (I surmise that they did, indeed, save the cheerleader, but I find that I don't care if they saved the world.) I wanted to really like "Chuck", but it got "dumb" and I got bored with all the double-agent crap in the second (third?) episode, and the characters got so cartoonish that I was actually yawning I was so bored. Scratch that one. I was charmed at first by "Pushing Daisies," but the nonstop narration started getting so invasively monotonous and boring that I kept noticing something annoying: for a guy whose second touch could kill the girl he's so crazy for, he sure gets damned close to her. Damned close. I just found that bothersome. I started obsessing over the fact that they didn't seem worried over that at all, and they stood really, really close to each other. A lot. To me, that's a problem.

But I digress.

My original point is, I am bored right now with stuff. Like the overall color scheme of my blog. But, I am not one to embrace change, nor risk alienating my readers. Plus, the blue is symbolic of my politics. Yet, I feel like I need a bit of a Fashion Makeover at the Dept. What do you think? Should I go for a new palette? What do you suggest?

Sigh. So many things to consider, yet I really don't feel like it. I'm suffering from Generalized Malaise. But, who isn't? Perhaps a change of scenery will do me good, both in cyberspace and the real world. I'm off for a bit of a getaway this weekend. When I come back, I'll try out your Blog Style Suggestions. In the meantime, I've given you plenty to Brainstorm about.

Friday, October 05, 2007

All The News That's Weird To Print: Cleaning Favorites, Green Glittery Bones, And Second-Story Mushrooms

Sometimes I read the newspaper and I swear that I've entered another dimension, one where the time-space continuum is warped and skewed and all life is madness and real people don't exist. And I'm not reading the Politics section about Republicans or an interview with The Angel of Death about his Surge Strategy or anything, either. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Usually, it's the Inside & Out section of The Plain Dealer, the cleverly titled segment all about gardening and decorating. It contains articles full of helpful hints and stories about things that the average homeowner/gardener reads and scoffs at with varying degrees of intensity. "Oh, certainly I will rub a small amount of linseed oil into the wooden handles of all my tools such as trowels, shovels, hoes, and rakes to prevent them from cracking and drying out!" I say as I read the feature article titled Chores Galore! "I don't even moisturize my flaky legs after every shower." Soon, I am moved by how Readers' Solutions for Cleaning Get Heloise's Seal of Approval. It seems that I missed my chance to send in my own favorite family recipe for cleaning solutions with other NE Ohioans awhile back. Alarmingly, this article took up nearly an entire page and people waxed not only nostalgic but downright poetic about their favorite concoctions for cleaning windows, floors, mirrors, and you-name-it. I nearly became ill. One woman actually wrote of her Aunt Helen's recipe for glass cleaner: "as I touched it lovingly, my heart was flooded with fond memories of her. She loved to clean. She would fill an empty bottle with this concoction and away she went." Good God. Of all the things for which one can be remembered, to have it be cleaning...well...yikes. Allow me to say this: my recipe for a cleaning solution is very simple. If at all possible, hire someone.

But trust the truly insane to come from La Diva Domestique, Martha Stewart. The most bizarre sentences I have ever read in print, bar none, have to be the ones in her column Eerie Decorations for Halloween Fun. I almost had no emotion in my personal database of feelings with which to react to them. Here they are:

(^)A giant glass cheese dome, something I have had in my kitchen for many years, formed the perfect display case for green-glittered plastic skulls and bones when set atop a very large cake stand.

And this caption under a photo of the aforementioned objets d'arts:

(^)Glittered plastic skeletal parts create a dramatic and unexpectedly artful ambience when set off by an oversized glass cheese dome.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?

O-kay.

You know, it's enough to put me off my paper.

Yet, I soldiered on, unwisely, it turned out. Starting on a column innocuously headed HOME MAINTENANCE, I was intrigued by the headline Remove the Source of Moisture if Mushroom Growing in a Home. This didn't sound too goofy to me; I live in a neighborhood of really old homes, some with dirt floor basements, and mushrooms sprout up in them once in a while. No biggie. Oh, dear reader...! First paragraph: I received an email from a reader recently who found a mushroom growing on a second-floor hardwood floor and asked if this was cause for alarm, and also asked for suggestions on how to handle it.

Holy crap! Is this "cause for alarm?" Ummm...is your second floor a mushroom farm? No? Then hell, yes, it's cause for alarm!

In the meantime, though, since it is October, do you have a slightly oversized cheese dome and some green glitter? Then I have a suggestion....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Find Some Bunny To Love

Not long ago, I was forced by my conscience to bring you these stories of man's inhumanity to our bovine brethren. Now comes news of callous disregard for yet another creature of the animal kingdom which holds a soft, warm spot in the warrens of my heart. I am, of course, speaking of...the bunny. To be certain you are in the proper frame of mind to continue reading this incredible tail...er, tale of shocking human criminal behavior, here is a picture of the kind of animal about which I am speaking:
Keep that in mind. I mean it, now. Here we go.

People have been seen dumping domestic rabbits all along the South Shore area of Long Island, New York in recent months. One call earlier this month reported a man in a white sedan leaving 20 rabbits at the Massapequa train station before driving away. "It sounds like someone is raising rabbits and trying to get out of the business," said Gerry McBride, who handles criminal complaints for the Nassau Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

This bunny-dumping is a practice that invariably leads to the deaths of said rabbits, who are tragically unequipped to live in the wild. They are often the victims of raccoon attacks, parasitic disease, or starvation. Luckily for some of these bunnies, the Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group is already on it, but they can only do so much. Few of these rescued rabbits survive because so many that are rescued are so young, and infested with parasites, fleas, and maggots. "It takes us six to eight months to [get someone to] adopt them," she said. "They're breeding and dying constantly."

Comments on this story at the Newsday website have been damning. Mary D of West Islip laments, "These animals are so defenseless. How can people be so uncaring?" Susan from Flushing is a bit more abrupt: "Anyone who abuses animals is a scumbag." Greta of AOL, who is a member of the Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group offers this: "bunnies can be litter trained, are incredibly social (more like a dog that uses a litter box...), and sweet, wonderful animals. 99% of the time, "negative behaviors" have more to do with the owner's improper care than the bunny being a "bad bunny". How true, Greta! How true! And if you don't believe Greta (and I!), just look at this picture:

How can you not believe that this bunny is sweet and wonderful and incredibly social? Or prayerful? This bunny is begging you not to dump it in Massapequa Park!

Finally, I leave you with this wonderful short film of the most engaging bunny of all time. Watch it and love it. And then, do your part to love bunnies. All bunnies. Forever.




all bunny pix courtesy of http://.cuteoverload.com/

Monday, September 24, 2007

Politics: The George Costanza Principle, Men Who Can't Manage Their Testosterone (With A Side Of History), A Favorite Quote, And My Two Favorite Dems


What a very long time it has been since I waxed political! One caveat before you peruse this post: it has also been a very long time since I had a decent session in the ol' rack monster. I'm a wee bit cranky, but you know what they say about politics and bedfellows anyway.

Oh, and by "session," I just mean "sleep." Sigh. What were you thinking!?

(=) Here's the thing about The Surge, The Petraeus Report, The Iraq Study Group, The War In General (No Pun Intended). Basically, we keep doing stuff that The Angel of Death wants to do and it has been sucking. I say we apply the George Costanza Principle as it happened in Seinfeld show #86, season 5 (1992-1993). In this episode, George realizes that in his whole life, nothing he has ever done has ever worked out for him. So, in a stunning display of daring and boldness, he decides to do the opposite of everything his instincts tell him to do. And an incredible series of successes follows: he meets a beautiful woman, he lands a job with the Yankees, and he gets a great apartment. So, here's the new Iraq Strategy: whatever W says to do, the commanders on the ground, the State Department, hell--everyone--should do the opposite. That should get this thing wrapped up by Christmas. Of this year.

(=) Next. I keep meeting up with men who want to talk politics with me and they invariably bring up The Hillary Issue. Nine times out of ten, they say, "Well, I just don't think that she can be/make a good president." Yet, when I press them for concrete reasons, they can't really offer anything other than this: "Well, she's so polarizing." Or, "Well, she can't win." Or, "I just don't like her." Which all boil down to this: "I can't set aside my testosterone and vote for a woman because, well...I just can't." Sigh. (Sometimes, I get really, really nasty and go in for the kill with Caucasian guys and ask them about Barack Obama to see if they will find a way to pillow the race issue. But not always because they can futz around about "experience.") Anyway, back to this one oldtimer I'm thinking of regarding Hillary. The real clincher was this: he says to me, "Ideally, I'd love to see this country really get back on track and get a really good stand-up CHRISTIAN in the White House!" Holy Crap. I said, "That's the kind of bullshit that got us into this mess in the first place." He said, "No a real one this time." Oh. My.
In the final analysis, I just keep telling everyone that it's way too early. Way. Too. Early. But for anyone who is intelligent, and anyone who doesn't mind reading something wonderful and historic and very short germane to the subject of a woman in the White House, you might really enjoy this. It's incredible how history continues to instruct those of us who are thoughtful enough to listen.

(=) This has to be one of my favorite quotes recently regarding The Angel of Death. Everyone knows that average Americans' attention spans are pathetic anyway; our interest in his war is even more limited since we know that we can't have any impact on it one way or another:
"You have an unpopular President going onto prime time television, interrupting Americans' TV programs, to remind them of why they don't like him."-- A "frustrated Capitol Hill Republican strategist with ties to the G.O.P. leadership," quoted by Time magazine, on President Bush's recent address on Iraq.

(=) Finally, I just have to say that two of my favorite Democrats are doing nicely. Al Gore, fresh from his Oscar win, just picked up an Emmy! And my heart of hearts, Bill Clinton, looks very fit and well and is now on a combination book tour/campaign trail. You know how I worry. Sigh. Those were the days, weren't they? Bill...and Al.... Time to check my "Days Left In Office Countdown" again. Because it WILL END.

IT WILL BE OVER.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ugly AND Dangerous--What More Proof Do You Need?

This is a full-out Fashion Alert! No, I'm not talking about my latest purchase, the adorable red tartan plaid heels I wore to school today with a black pencil skirt, black flirty short-sleeved blouse and wide red belt. Look at how cute these are, and I got them on sale with Jared's discount:



But I digress.

I'm talking about the dangerous, injurious Crocs.


Have you heard of this? Not only are these rubbery miscarriages of fashion absolutely heinous to the eye, but they are now the cause of WORLDWIDE ESCALATOR CASUALTIES. No! I am not kidding. This is fact. There are countless reputable news outlets reporting this phenomenon. Why, as recently as yesterday (18 Sept. 2007), The Chicago Sun-Times online reported that "According to reports from as far away as Singapore and Japan, entrapments occur because of two of the shoes' selling points: their flexibility and grip. Some report the shoes get caught in the ''teeth'' at the bottom or top of the escalator, or in the crack between the steps and the side of the escalator."


One can only imagine the devastating and gory results.


Want to know more? Then do what alert and concerned mom and researcher Jodi McDermott of Vienna, Virginia did when her four-year-old son Rory got his Croc-encased foot stuck in a mall escalator last month! After managing to yank him free and rejoicing that he escaped with almost getting a toenail ripped off, she "came home and typed in 'Croc' and 'escalator,' and all these stories came up,'' she related, the horror still fresh in her voice. And no wonder! Undoubtedly, she was the Croc-Purchaser in the first place. Oh, the inhumanity!


As if the whole thing doesn't have the insidious undercurrent of a Stephen King novel about it already, the plot thickens. Croc officials, when reached for comment, claim that they are already working closely with the Elevator/Escalator Safety Foundation on a campaign to raise public awareness through education about this issue. But spokesperson for EESF, executive director Barbara Allen says that's just not true. Allen said that after an initial contact way back in 2006, no one from Crocs has contacted her since, nor returned subsequent calls made by her office. It's a case of see ya later, alligator.


Those Crocs. I always knew they were just plain no good. And now, there is proof.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Random Male Musings: Seers And Squash

Jared is home from college for the first time since leaving almost a month ago. Today, we took a nice drive in search of some fresh country vegetables, orchard-crisp apples, and a heavenly pecan pie from a pie shop not too far away. As a bonus, the ride provided the following nuggets from Rick and a local farmer.


This as we drove past one of the several fortune teller/card reader/medium residences in our area (Why we have so many, I have absolutely no idea. Undoubtedly, they know.):

Nance: Well, at least that fortune teller's house is well-kept, unlike the one over on the west side.
Rick: You think this one already knows we're not stopping by?



And then, as we were waiting in line to pay for our purchases at a farm stand....


We were getting a dozen ears of sweet corn, and I noticed some very nice butternut squash. It was only a dollar per squash, regardless of size. I grabbed a lovely chubby one and held it in my arms and, together with Rick, stood in line. The farmer, clad in Carhartt overalls and cap, counted out our ears of corn and said, "That'll be $4.85." Rick said, "And this squash, too." The farmer looked at me, smiled, and said, "Then 5.85!" As Rick counted out the cash, the man looked to me, still smiling, and said, "You look good with that squash."


I think I just smiled back.


Last Year on Dept of Nance: Funny?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Why Daniel Day-Lewis And Ohio Are Really Irritating Me

This morning I got an email that irritated me on two levels: one, the fact that I live in Ohio and two, the fact that a certain famous person steadfastly refuses to do what I want. At present, I have no control over either of these things, so I guess you could say then that the email actually frosted my cupcakes on three levels. Damn. Now I'm really pissed.

Let me explain.

My oft-AWOL friend Carrie surfaced in order to casually mention that she worked the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day, where she shook the hand of:

Daniel Day-Lewis. Personal obsession de Nance circa 1992-present. Ever since "The Last of the Mohicans" hit the cinemas and my mother called me to tell me to go see it just because the actor who played Hawkeye was "my type." I have stuck by this man throughout the past 15 years, despite his innumerable fashion disasters, all the while hoping that he would someday come back to me. And it has been work, people. Witness:


I think I've more than made my point. As you can see by the most recent pic provided by Carrie, he has not even attempted to improve. It's like he doesn't care. It's like he doesn't even know I exist! Daniel Day-Lewis is the single most compelling argument out there for the revival of the old studio system back in the Golden Age of the big movie moguls. Back then, places like Paramount and MGM owned their stars and those people never dared appear out in public unless they were glammed up and perfectly coiffed. It was in their contract!

Also, I blame The Missus. Rebecca Miller, a filmmaker herself (daughter of the late American legend playwright Arthur Miller and who used to be an actress also) is apparently all caught up in her "art" and doesn't care what her husband looks like. Hell, judging by the photo up there, and others I've seen, she doesn't care much what she looks like, either. These two are letting a major opportunity go by to be a real filmmaking tour de force as a couple: articulate, talented, and attractive, both behind the camera and in front of it. They could be the darlings of Hollywood instead of Runners-Up on Blackwell's list and mentioned on TMZ.com and E!.

Heavy sigh.Come find me, Daniel. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far. Come find me.

All of which leads me to my other source of irritation, which is living in Ohio. Where I never see anyone famous, ever. Let's face it. It's Ohio. Oh. Boy. What do we have here to draw the famous and celebrated? Oh, yes, we do have the number one amusement park in the world, voted as such for ten years in a row. I haven't been there in 22 years, and it's 45 minutes away from me. But we have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...AND MUSEUM! For which the inductees receive their awards and hold their concerts...in New York City! Alas. Even our little presidential candidate isn't taken seriously here. I think you are getting my drift.

Here is a list of the famous people I have met. And by "met" I mean "have actually spoken to personally, not seen in a lecture or concert or sporting event or across a room and hollered at." Get ready. I do hope you are sitting down.
1. Otto Graham
2. Toni Morrison
3. There Is No Number Three. That's it. My list is over. I am an embarrassment.

Other bloggers have met wildly famous people. Ortizzle met a king and Paul McCartney. I have to give you hints to help you with the identities of the two that I met. (Hint: the first one is a former Cleveland Brown football player; the second, a Nobel Prize-winning author.) And now my friend in Colorado has had the luck to shake the hand of and probably chitchat with our shared obsession, Daniel Day-Lewis. At least he still looks like crap.

But the weather here sucks real bad.

Vintage Nance--Things That Make Me Giggle

Monday, September 03, 2007

News From The Fashion Fitting Room Front: Bluejean Bulletin

Every woman knows of the Top Three Fashion Terrors To Shop For. For those who are Not Of A Certain Age or who are simply so incredibly addicted to shopping that you are braindead, they are, in order:
1. bathing suit
2. bra
3. bluejeans

This weekend, Saturday to be exact, I went in pursuit of #3.

I probably should have gone in pursuit of #2 instead since I have been wearing the same one, unhappily I might add, for the past few years. Don't judge me! Do you know what it's like to look down into my bra each and every single day and see something eerily reminiscent of two morose teabags lying against the sides of their mugs, fearfully awaiting the boiling water? Ever since losing so much weight so rapidly, I have no idea what size I might be anymore, and this bra is the only one I own that is even remotely close to fitting me. And I cut the onerous tag out of it eons ago. Oh, and don't even suggest a professional fitting. I've seen those old ladies on tv and it just creeps me right out of my skin. The stuff they say is enough to make me tear up.

But I digress. I think I was talking about shopping for bluejeans.

Okay, then.

So.

I hit Express first because when it comes to pants, that is the store that never fails me. I am a straight-up, don't-even-have-to-try-it-on size 2 at Express. Until it comes to jeans, apparently. Now, it is not enough to just have "X2" jeans at Express. They have to have personality jeans as well. Their jeans have names: Stella, Eva, and Zelda. The names have little profiles, like Zelda is "shy around boys." Give me a break. If Zelda is so shy around boys, then why is she "ultra low rise and slim fit" which is jeanspeak for "so tight and slutty that I could not breathe or sit down without exposing my crack"? I ended up with a non-personality pair of bluejean trousers from their more, er...sedate line of real people pants that had no Name Ending In A.

As we browsed the outdoor shopping mall...er, "Lifestyle Centre"--these hoity-toity upspeak names kill me, they really do--we decided to stop at the Gap. I am old enough to remember when Gap jeans were the ugly stepchild of Levis, and no one would be caught dead wearing them. Now they are de rigeur and there is a Gap on every corner and in every Lifestyle Centre of chic cities and upscale districts. Anyway, Gap was having a sale on selected pairs of jeans, so I was ready to try some on. But...holy crap. There were eleventy billion kinds of jeans. I eavesdropped on an instructional talk that a gorgeous and knowledgeable salesgirl (of about 14) was giving to a similarly overwhelmed woman about the vast array of bluejean choices available, but soon I became bored and confused. I simply grabbed a 2R in every single style and headed into the fitting room. Readers, I had about 30 pounds of jeans in my arms. At least.

Boot cut, classic, curvy, long and lean, essential, flare, skinny, straight...it was insane. I ended up buying a pair but I have absolutely no frikkin' idea which one except that it was not one of the ones that was on sale. Of. Course.

And! All the ones I tried on were size twos, but not all of them fit.

How is that possible? And why do we accept it?

Heavy sigh.

I am not looking forward to bra shopping.
Vintage Dept. of Nance--a special day at physical therapy
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