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Friday, February 23, 2007

Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Sagging Pants, Republicans, and Brad Pitt: Go On, I Dare You

These past two weeks, my students in American Lit have been studying the work of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, two nineteenth century poets whose work we have analyzed, discussed, and related to modern figures in American life. Feeling moved by the Muse one day--as well as having had my fill of a neverending vista of boxer shorts--I posted this sign on my door and in my classroom:
I'd rather see London--
I'd rather see France--
I'd rather not see your underpants!
No sagging in room 245.


Can someone please explain to me how this is attractive or fashionable or even remotely acceptable in any society? Why are these 15, 16, 17, and 18-year old young men not embarrassed that I can SEE THEIR UNDERWEAR? I routinely call out, "Red and blue plaid!" or "Yellow with blue sailboats!" or "Green with white martini glasses!" as soon as I can see a flash of cotton-polyester blend in front of me. They usually hitch up their jeans and growl goodnaturedly, "Awww, Mrs. D!" and saunter off to their desks. And, get this: most of them are wearing belts! FOR WHAT?!
At least they have learned to spare themselves the sad indignity of sparring with me as they used to. This is how it used to transpire:
Male student enters room sagging, boxers flaunted before me.
Me: Joe Boxers waistband and yellow stripes!
Male: Huh? (looks down) Why you gotta call out my underwear like that?
Me: I thought you were showing it off! It's just hanging out there. I wanted to make sure you knew I noticed it. Your plan is working!
Male: My plan? Maaaaan! Ms. D., that's my underwear. You don't gotta go and put my business all out there and junk.
Me: I don't understand. You put it out there. Your pants are halfway down to your crotch. Your business is waaaay out there. Seems to me that if--
Male: Okay, okay! I'll pull them up. Geeze!
I find this so-called fashion trend nothing short of horrific. Where are "pants," period? Just pants? Just jeans that aren't the pencil-legged spray-painted sort worn by the "emo-boys", nor the oversized trashcan-legged kind in which one can hide an SUV or get holes in the crotch from its being dragged on the ground. I miss plain old boys' pants. I'll tell you when all this sagging bullshit will stop. WHEN GIRLS START DOING IT. There, I said it. And don't give me that crapola about girls showing a peek of a thong out of hi-rise jeans. It's just not the same, and we both know it. I am certainly not advocating either of these hideous anti-fashions; all I'm saying is that if girls start adopting the sag, probably several Agencies and Hearings would be set up to Look Into It. Immediately. Ahem.
And while I'm on the subject of male fashion, here's another thing that has been bothering me. What the heck has happened to men with hair? I have no idea when the idea of men shaving their hair down to the height of toothbrush bristles started, but let me just say here and now that I am dismayed, distraught, and pretty much devastated by this continuing trend. You know me, whenever something like this occurs on a large scale, I get suspicious, and my first, immediate inclination is...Blame The Republicans, a la Hillary (The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy), but it does seem to me that in the 90s, men had longer hairstyles. I know my husband did! We hit the new millenium and men started shaving their heads (or practically!) and now the majority of men have little or no hair. It's awful. A man with luxurious hair will catch my glance ten times more quickly than a man with a pate like a shoebrush. I love to run my fingers through my husband's hair. It's not anywhere near as long as it once was, but it's at least long enough to comb and enjoy. I long for the days when it was really long, and sun-streaked like Brad Pitt's in Legends of the Fall. What's romantic and alluring and inviting about short hair? Ouch.
Here, see for yourself:


If you're being honest, you know you want the Brad With Hair. And you want him Bad. And you'd prefer him NOW. Sigh. And my husband had that hair. Honesttogod and now it is in a ziploc in my drawer!
But I digress.
My point--and I think I do/did have one--is this: men, of all ages, are perpetrating a high degree of bad fashion. And I am sick of it. And it must stop. Please help.
Oh, and it probably would be nice if you read a little Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, too. Especially Walt. He's kind of a 19th century Dr. Phil: he wants you to get excited about your life. To "celebrate yourself and sing yourself." What's wrong with that? Just don't do it in bad fashion.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hold On To Those Stones Out There


Once, I became suddenly fixated upon the idea that I was going to hell. For some reason, it began to occupy a lot of my Active Worry Time. I shared this concern with my breezy, largely unconcerned friend Roger who said this to me, and it changed my life in a massive, monumental way: I don't believe in Hell, and you shouldn't either. And, that way, you won't have to worry about going there. It doesn't exist.

(Actually, there was a ton of stuff in between the first sentence and the second, but it was extremely philosophical and Existential and spanned several hundred years of history and all that, and really, it's the remaining text that is germane.)

The effect of his speech on forty-something years of Roman Catholic guilt was liberating. It was almost like a hit of nitrous. I remember laughing and laughing. He was smiling indulgently, like a childless uncle at a baby's birthday party when the kid goes right for the cake. He stood up from the table, put his hands in his pockets and said, "Okay! See how much better you feel? Hell is nothing but a load of crap. You want hell? Come in and teach my third period class. See you later."

So, I don't believe in Hell anymore. I'm a recovering Catholic who's trying to get over years and years of nuns smacking me around with Guilt. Guilt over my parents not sending me to Catholic school. Guilt over not going to confession every single week. Guilt over not feeling like I was really a horrible person because I couldn't recite the definition of "grace" word for word on command. If there is a Hell, I truly think it was Mondays from 4 pm to 5 pm in St. John's School at what was then called CCD, now PSR (what do all those letters stand for anyway?) when Sister Marguerite used to drill us in Religion tempered by berating us as Public School Children. I left there every single week with a massive headache from first grade through sixth.

But, confession is still good for the soul, is it not? And in case there is a Hell--Roger's avowals to the contrary notwithstanding--here are some of my sins. I'll confess to seven, in keeping with the tradition.

1. I do not have a "baby book" for either of my children. I have not set down for posterity their first words, the date of their first steps, first haircuts, or first time on the potty. I am a terrible, terrible mother, I know.

2. I have not dusted my fireplace mantel in many, many years. I keep a tapestry runner on it to avoid it. I have eleventy billion family pictures on it that I dust twice a year: when I take them down to put up Christmas decorations, and when I take down the Christmas decorations to put the pictures back up. If you have a problem with that, come on over and dust for me.

3. I am not all that sentimental. I would rather clear out the toys, crib, baby furniture, and baby clothes from my kids than hang onto them like grim death. I have pictures of all of those things in use. The objects themselves do not retain any of the smells or any feel of the boys when they were babies, so what's the big deal? Get rid of it. Unless the item was handmade by someone, and even then, I might still pitch some of it.

4. I have a horrible swearing habit. I have a really hard time coming back to school in the fall and controlling my mouth after a summer of swearing freedom. I never swear in the classroom, but I am on constant guard. My husband hates that I am profane, but he knows I have been trying to clean it up in deference to him. I used to have a real thing against the F-word, but something happened and suddenly, it made an appearance, and it has been around ever since. I blame my friend Leanne who I don't see often, but whose R-rated emails do nothing to discourage me.

5. I don't take pictures. At all. Consequently, I have almost no pictures of my children at any milestones of their lives, and they have no pictures of me. This is a horrible thing for a ton of reasons, I know. Don't berate me and don't give me dire warnings in the comments, all full of predictions about how when I die the boys won't have any favorite photos for their memories and how they won't have any pictures of themselves to show their own babies and yadda yadda yadda da da da. I know all that and I'm already wearing an enormously prickly hair shirt provided by my sister for that.

6. I don't clean behind my appliances. If any single one of you does, then you should be canonized. Or hospitalized for OCD. Because, really, don't you have something else to do, like build low-income housing for the poor? Or come and take pictures of my family?

7. TravisCat threw up on my computer chair and all I did was (A) scrape off the big chunks, (B) put a towel over the rest of it, and (C) tell Rick that I need a new computer chair because I am sick of the cats vomiting on everything and I am not washing a freaking $30 chair when I can go to Office Maximum and get a new one on sale. Which will be VINYL OR LEATHER so that cat-yak will be more readily removable. (Honestly, the cat threw up on the futon, the rug, and my bed last week. WTF? But I digress.)

So, there they are, My Seven Sins. Are you suitably horrified? I'm glad there isn't a Hell now. Any or all of these would surely land me there.
Just remember what it says in John 8:7...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

DoN Encourages YOU to Practice Democracy NOW!


Here in the United States of America, paragon of modern democratic government to budding nations, place where "We" are all Time magazine's Person of the Year, it is only fitting that I get your input regarding a matter of critical significance to The Dept.

Many of you have come to enjoy and, if I dare believe you, even look forward to my nightly Brian Williams Tie Report. (I get a kick out of it myself although it is annoying that there aren't any good synonyms for the word "tie" unless I dip into foreign languages. I'm highly impressed that Brian hasn't repeated a tie yet since I've started reporting on his neckwear. Rick is frustrated that there isn't a screen capture online of each NBC newscast, and he is starting to get really worky on me, trying to figure out a way to get a picture of each tie and yadda yadda yadda da da da. )

But I digress.

This is where you come in. Below, you will find a poll in which I'd like my Dept. of Nance readers to vote. Yes, vote! Even though, ultimately, I will be the decider, I would like the input of all of you. I will look at the results, and, much like those of the Iraq Study Group, then I will consider it carefully, mulling and chewing it over, and then, like someone else we know, do whatever the hell I wanted to in the first place. No, I'm just kidding. I will seriously see what my readership desires most and by what margin. Then I'll take it from there. So, vote for which choice you like best. In the meantime, I'll have the Tie Report up in the sidebar each night I watch Brian, as usual. Have you had a favorite tie, yet? Or a favorite report? That Brian...what a figure he cuts.

Okay, now vote!



What should be done with The Brian Williams Tie Report?
Leave it as a sidebar feature here at The Dept.
Make it a whole new blog and link to it from The Dept.
Make it a daily Dept. blogpost so we can comment on it
Honestly, I'm not here for The Tie Report

pollcode.com free polls

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I Call on the Power of the Internet!


I was putting my laundry away today and was again confronted with my single charcoal grey sock. I've been holding onto it now for four months, stubbornly and brightly hoping that its mate will turn up. After all, how far can it go? My house is a modest little Cape Cod-ish affair: a story-and-a-half little thing with the washer and dryer in the basement. I drag the clothing from my hamper down one flight of steps to the machine. The washer is snugged right up to the dryer! There is no vast, cavernous canyon anywhere in the route. EmilyCat and TravisCat are far too urbane, sophisticated, and lazy to interact with human clothing, be it dirty or clean. I must traverse the same route back as I took to the laundry area, so I would have seen it had I dropped it.

As soon as I noticed it was missing, I scoured the area, the hamper (in case I had inadvertently left it behind), and rechecked the appliances. When that proved fruitless, I interrogated the residents. No success. That was more than 120 days ago, and still I grieve.

I loved that pair of socks. They match my platinum wash Levis perfectly. They are comfortable and stretchy and are the exact right height. They require no cuffing, nor do they roll down on their own or leave horrid red bindy marks. They are tastefully wide-ribbed, but not noticeably so.

Finding this sock has become an obsession. Every once in a while, I re-interrogate the suspects here at The Dept. I stare them down. I say things like, "Have you looked in your drawers, just in case?" or "Hey! When you clean your room this week, be on the lookout for that grey sock of mine!" or "I'm coming upstairs and if I find that grey sock someone is in serious trouble!" or "Whoever finds Mommy's grey sock gets $20 from Daddy!"

In January my hope was renewed by news of the boy in St. Louis Missouri who was recovered after being missing for four years. Wow! I thought, that's a whole kid, and my sock has only been missing for three months!

So, I'm going to post the picture of my missing sock here, right here on The Internet, in case any of you can help track it down. Or, maybe one of you has a match and would be willing to give it up to make my pair complete. And, just as a "Hail Mary," I''m adding a picture of my missing khaki sock, too. It went missing a long time ago under equally mysterious circumstances. I don't miss it as much, but I figure what the heck? But that charcoal grey one...seriously, it's a major Wardrobe Player for me. A first-stringer. Oh, I've bought a new pair, but they're not ribbed. You know how much that little detail means.


(Rick did the scanning for me, and I didn't want to get too fussy with him about styling the socks to best show off their attributes.)

Now, let me clearly state for the record that I am not accusing any of you of harboring the Fugitive Socks. I am only seeking help in locating these wayward accessories, and, should they wish to find their way home, would be only too happy to welcome them with open...er...geeze, that would be awkward, to extend that metaphor...heart and no questions asked.

Friday, February 09, 2007

My Identity Crisis...?

The Internet is such a wellspring of entertainment. A few days ago, I was visiting Other Departments (see sidebar) and I was intrigued and tickled by a post over at Anali's First Amendment. She had visited a site that scanned a digital photo of her face and then supplied her with her "celebrity lookalikes." The results were, by and large, mystifying. Naturally, I had to pop over and try it out myself. I'm a bit of a privacy junkie when it comes to my actual physical being, so unlike Anali, you won't see what I actually look like. But let me assure you...these results are just, well, all over the place. I'll let the Dept. readers who have actually met me in person tell the rest of you what they think in the comments!

Here, then, are my "Celebrity Lookalikes:"




Now you can absolutely get a clear picture of me in your head, can't you? I can't even remember who all of these women are, but I think they are: J.K. Rowlings, Tia Carrere, Venus (?) Williams, Heather Locklear, Mira Sorvino, Penelope Cruz, Don't Know This One, Britney Spears' Sister.

Let me remind you that I am 47--will be 48 in May. And no, I did not cheat and use an old photo. There is no freaking way I look anything like Britney Spears' little sister. This software is ridiculous. Anali, who is a gorgeous woman, had a man come up as a celebrity lookalike! And, let me also say this: this man was someone I had never even heard of; ergo, he was not even a celebrity!

So! I know some of my readers are people who see me on a fairly regular basis, or are people who have seen me recently. Post in the comments and tell the rest of my visitors just how closely I resemble any of my Celebrity Lookalikes.

I can't wait.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Unfair and Unbalanced

In the interest of full disclosure, DoN readers, there are a few things I need to tell you before you read this blogpost:
1. There are few things that irk me more than Cleveland newscasts that hype and sensationalize news stories that would otherwise not be that newsworthy.

2. It irritates me to no end that news reporters intrude themselves into a family's most private moments, the most vulnerable of these being the death of a loved one.

3. I have an incredible fondness for and attachment to cows.

Alrighty, then! Moving on.

An absolutely freakish farm accident happened on January 31st in Lexington Township, Ohio. You can pop over here and read about it in its entirety, if you wish, but I will copy-and-paste the part of the news story which is germane to our discussion.

Basically, "Steven Walker was doing his daily chores with his two grandsons when the mundane became inconceivable. 'He was gonna separate the mom from the little calf,' says 13-year-old Zach Elbiali. 'The cow just started chasing him.' Zach was inside the barn at the time and immediately ran outside to find his 55- year-old grandfather on the ground inside the pen. It appears a defensive cow charged him, knocking him to the ground where he hit his head. Zach called 911, and stayed with his grandfather until the ambulance arrived. Walker was taken to a hospital where he later died." (My sincerest sympathies to the Walker and Elbiali families.)


The Suspects--photo courtesy wkyc.com

And what was the lead for this story? On the news and in its "teasers" it was Farmer Murdered by Cow! Give me a break. "Murdered?" Later, it was softened to "Killed", but even then. This is typical Cleveland reporting. And it's not even a ratings period.

Actually, the thing that irritates me about this entire story is that they are blaming the death on the cow. The guy hit his head, and not on a cow. Did the cow gore him to death? No. Did the cow bite his head off? No. Did the guy come up and just pet the cow and it suddenly went psychotic on him? No. Basically, this man was perceived as a threat to the calf by an adult cow; the cow defended the juvenile; the cow tried to stave off what it perceived as an attack by a predator. The guy then stumbled and fell and hit his head. On something not a cow.

Why such wholesale scapegoating of cows? Is this some sort of paranoia fed by the recent outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, also known as "Mad Cow Disease"? Because despite its first confirmed case in 2003, the US saw no real impact in its domestic beef consumption since. And now, scientists have discovered a way of reversing the early symptoms of the human form of the illness should anyone have the misfortune of eating tainted beef.

What more do these people want? They can have their burgers and eat them, too!

Seriously, what is more nonthreatening than a cow? Cows walk along, nodding constantly. "Yep," they seem to be saying, "everything is just fine with me." When you look into the eyes of any cow, there is no hidden agenda there. The cow stares blankly back at you with huge, limpid eyes, blinking perhaps, chewing its cud and offering no differing opinion, no debate. There will be no argument from a cow. Obviously, if you don't try to take a calf away from it, there's no problem. Don't try any threatening posturing around a cow. How tough is that to remember?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fun with Politics: Oh, Yes, I Can!


Regardless of one's politics, we can all agree that a certain Sitter in The Big Chair at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is... less than articulate. This, of course, is only one of his many, many shortcomings. (And certainly among his more harmless ones.) But, as my clock counts those dim days of his Reign of Terror down, we must needs make do. So, let's have a little fun whilst the Democrats try to make sense of it all, shall we?

Let's play a game. Read the statements below. Three of them were actually uttered by the Angel of Death. One is made up by me. Which one is fake? See if you can tell.

Round One

A. "You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."
B. "It was not always certain that the U.S. and America would have a close relationship."
C. "Laura, before we were married, used to say that I should be committed."
D. "The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done."

Round Two

A. "I think—tide turning—see, as I remember—I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of—it's easy to see a tide turn—did I say those words?"

B. "The desk, where we'll have our picture taken in front of—is nine other Presidents used it. This was given to us by Queen Victoria in the 1870s, I think it was. President Roosevelt put the door in so people would not know he was in a wheelchair. John Kennedy put his head out the door."

C. "I think it's really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to—the beauty of playing baseball."

D. "And Social Security is not the safety net to encompass the needs and medical whys and wherefores of an aging society. The government is, I think, not in the business of telling the American elderly what to do with their money in a time of personal crisis at such a time."

Round Three

A. "I'm the decider."
B. "I use the Google."
C. "When the final history is written on Iraq, it will look just like a comma."
D. "I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend."

Oooh! Do you think you have them down? Let's see. Here come the answers.

In Round One, C. was my effort. In Round Two, D. was the fake. And finally, in Round Three...Aha! I cheated. ALL OF THEM were said by GWB. Honest, they were. Here are the links to my sources: The Complete Bushisms and Taegan's Political Wire .


You know, it's really pathetic that the man just cannot talk. But, if I dwell on it, much the same as if I dwell only on the shortcomings of my students each and every day, I'll end up sick, sad, and reeking of vodka.


And he's just not worth it. So, let's laugh, shall we? Laugh and laugh and laugh whenever we can. And keep an eye on that countdown. And those Democrats.
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