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Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Take On Restaurants, Bad Footwear, Hyper-Casualism, And, Just On Principle, republicans. Because I Must.


Certainly our current Administration in Washington D.C. has plenty to do, what with The Economy, Health Care, Iran playing Hide-n-Seek with nukes, and the republicans trying to...well, Do Whatever Nasty Thing They Can Find To Do. But this is no time to forget the fine cement of Nicety that should hold our country together. Once again, I volunteer to step in, make the Dept. of Nance a bona fide department, and do what I can to whittle away at the insidious incivilities that threaten to weaken what is left of Our Gracious Society.

Our topic today, dear readers: Restaurants. (Let me immediately say that I have a personal stake in this subject and that it was inspired by a recent dining experience at a franchise restaurant which shall remain nameless. Rick, not feeling particularly sociable on Friday, called the restaurant (one of the few to still take reservations for a party less than eleventy thousand) to make reservations for the two of us on Saturday. We decided to dine early, at six. This is plenty of background. I press on.) Restaurants have become a Behemoth Of Bad Behaviour in our Society as of late. Not owning or operating one myself, perhaps I am simply naive or ignorant, and a restaurateur can set me straight. Otherwise, I will remain convinced that the following points need to be remedied immediately. It simply cannot be that hard.

1. Reservations: Firstly, take them. Regardless of party size. Second, honor them. I do not want to arrive on time and have to wait twenty minutes (as was the case Saturday). Listen, I made a plan to dine at your establishment. I can understand there being some unexpectedness involved. But twenty minutes? Ridiculous. I'd like to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld when I say, "Anyone can take a reservation. It's holding the reservation; that's the most important part."

2. Seating: Do not insult me and take me, a person who made a plan to dine at your establishment over 24 hours ago, to the lousiest table in your restaurant. Those horrific cafeteria-like two-tops along a banquette. I do not wish to share my dinner and my dinner conversation with strangers. As a matter of fact, restaurateurs everywhere, STOP PUTTING THOSE GODAWFUL SEATS IN YOUR RESTAURANTS, PERIOD. THEY ARE TERRIBLE. If you must have them, save them for the walk-ins who decided at the last minute to patronize your establishment. When I am escorted to one by a clueless hostess, I politely insist that I be moved. Questions follow, managers inevitably insinuate themselves, and the dinner check ends up being comped. I don't try to get a free meal. I just want a nice dinner. I'm happy to pay for it, really.

3. Acoustics: Why do you have "ambient music?" Most restaurants are too damned loud anyway. The music/Muzak does not help. Especially annoying is "theme" music, i.e. Italian music at Italian restaurants. If I had a restaurant, I'd plaster that place with acoustical tiles so that it sucked in every single noise. You wouldn't hear an ice cube clink. In other words, you'd be able to hear the person across the table from you talk. Without shouting.

4. Appropriate Dress: Flip-flops. I see really no difference between these and being barefoot. Really. Can you imagine all the crud being flipped and flopped into the dining atmosphere from these people's feet? Ugh. And, is there really a difference between an Abercrombie & Fitch hooded sweatshirt and a plain old hooded sweatshirt? I want there to be some restaurants where I can go and not see a baseball hat. Where there won't be a woman in tennis shoes and sweatpants. But I don't have to pay fifty bucks for my pasta. You know?

The Dept. of Nance stands ready to restore Gentility to Dining Out. Short of opening its own restaurant, it will do its utmost to assist diners everywhere in their Quest For A Sophisticated And Civil Dining Experience. But first, both parties must accept their share of the blame.

Restaurateurs, anxious to make a go of their ventures, are increasingly lax regarding their standard of clientele. They're just happy to get bodies in the door. If they are running a casual, family restaurant, that's fine. But do draw the line someplace. Is it beach shoes? Is it bikini tops? Is it children running amok and disturbing other diners? Train your staff, and make sure they are capable. Tossing a few free meals here and there will eventually add up, and pretty soon, you'll be shuttering your business.

American Public, have some class. You are out to dinner. Not standing in front of your Frigidaire after having closed up your garage sale. Other people are around. True, you do not know them, but have some Personal Dignity. Are your children disturbing others? Apply a standard other than "Are they killing someone/each other/me?" for their Public Behavior. Finally, wear Real Shoes. It will be Okay. It's only an hour or two and then you can go home and take them off.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Again, I Offer My Expertise To Settle Matters Once And For All, And Pandas Are Involved


Apparently, we do have to worry about them after all.

Oh, I know that the President assured us that we don't, and even I didn't believe that Quitter From Alaska when she started frothing about them on her TwitFace page, but after reading this article on MSNBC.com, I am frantic!

I am, of course, talking about Death Panels.

Death Panels For Pandas.

British naturalist and BBC personality Chris Packham seems to think that preserving the panda, whose population numbers less than 2000 currently worldwide, is simply not worth the effort anymore. "It's not a strong species...and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation," he said. "I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go with a degree of dignity." Packham realizes that his Panda Plan will probably not catch on, however, because the panda is "big and cute and it's the symbol of the WWF." He would rather see funds allocated to other species which have a better chance at survival.

Wow, Mr. Chris Packham. Harsh. Let me just go on record here and state my overarching bias: I am pro-panda. And I am not ashamed to say it. I AM ALL ABOUT PANDAS. PRIMARILY BECAUSE THEY ARE CUTE.

And here is the deal, Mr. Chris Packham--and others--I will be more than happy to advocate for pandas based solely upon that reason. Period. So there. As a matter of fact, I will sit on your Endangered Species Death Panel right now and take a look at the entire freaking list of animals and decide who gets to stick around and who doesn't based entirely upon cuteness.
For those of you who wish to play along, here is the link, complete with pictures.

Okay, first of all, you can eliminate all bugs. That part is easy. No bugs. Bug Lovers out there, save your breath. You will never win me over. Butterflies do not count as a bug. Entomologists, please do not try to tell me the exact definition of "bug." Don't care.

Now, here is my list of animals that get to stay merely because of Cuteness. Oh, sure, there may be other reasons for animals to stay, but these are the ones I'm saving with my Expertise In The Field Of Cuteness.

CUTE ANIMALS TO SAVE

1. Black-eared mantella frog
2. Fergusson Island striped possum
3. Caspian seal
4. Banteng (because it looks like a cow!)
5. Red panda
6. Galapagos penguin
7. Shoebill
8. African penguin
9. Sun bear
10. Madagascan gecko
11. Nectophrynoides viviparus frog
12. Channel Islands fox
13. Corroborree Frog
14. Crowned sifaka lemur
15. Harlequin frog
16. Blue poison frog
17. Polar bear
18. Abbot's Booby

Okay. That last one is just because the name is cute. And I realized as I was looking through these poor, endangered critters that I am heavily Anti-Snake. And also not too Fish Sympathetic, either.

And that we are saving a lot of ugly animals.

Which is fine, really. Everything has its place in the Circle of Life. Even Mr. Chris Peckham, naturalist and BBC personality, who is also president of Britain's Bat Conservation Trust (and I am showing a ton of restraint here).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Airing Of Grievances: An Early Festivus Celebration, Thanks To A Centipede In The Bathtub And David Gregory

Sunday nights are my traditional Soaky Bath Nights. I like to climb into a nice, hot tubby and just unwind and try not to think about another week at The Rock. Tonight, though, I pulled aside the shower curtain and got an unpleasant surprise. Skittering away from the light was a large, ugly thousand-legger. Uncharacteristically, I got all Girly and did one of those high-pitched in-the-throat screams that caused Jared to come running. He dispatched it immediately, and I got a quick idea for tonight's blogpost because seeing that hideous thing come crawling out from under its unknown hiding place made an immediate connection in my mind to another, one Rep. Joe Wilson (his poor mother!) on Wednesday evening, but I'll get to that.

It all started with yet another regrettable viewing of what passes for Meet the Press, but you and I know it is now just a thin shadow of that fine program. So, I'm channeling my inner Frank Costanza and invoking an early Festivus Tradition. To use his words: "The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!"

I'm starting with David Gregory. I know. I already broke up with him once. But it apparently didn't take. I keep tuning in to MTP hoping that things will change and that he will come back to me. They haven't and he won't. So, David Gregory, listen up. I've had it with you, once and for all. You have single-handedly destroyed Meet the Press with your obvious bias and your badgering and your rudeness. You keep asking the same questions over and over and over again because you already have in your cocoon the answer you want to hear. Do you know why you have so many panels on your show, David? It's because NO ONE WANTS TO DO YOUR SHOW. Today on MTP, David said this, "I was talking to some people about their concerns...." Oh, David. You and I both know that has to be bullshit. You don't know any "people." And anyone you know who has "concerns" places them under the heading of Where to find good help these days or Get a pool guy who has papers or New Blackberry time? Please.

Next up is a guest on MTP today, some guy named Joshua Cooper Ramo who wrote a book. Please do not run out and buy it because if what this guy said is any indication of its content, you will be wasting your hard-earned cash. Here is a massive quote from Mr. Ramo: "You've got to have some really imaginative approach here that says we're going to change what it means to be unemployed in America." Okay. Mr. JC Ramo, it's your turn. What the HELL DOES THAT MEAN? Will that be like calling housewives "domestic goddesses?" Are we talking semantics here? Shall we just use new terminology for unemployment in order to make all the people without jobs feel better, like when we stopped calling people "handicapped" and started calling them disabled, or for a while there, "physically challenged?" Or, hey! Let's call this massive unemployment "National Vacation!" How about "Employment Hiatus?" Is that better? Mr. Ramo, being unemployed in America means what it always means: Americans do not have jobs. Ergo, American families do not have sufficient health care, sufficient money to pay for gas, food, insurance, and other bills. Lying on your back and looking at cloud shapes for duckies and bunnies isn't going to make it any better. Good luck with those book sales.

And, holy crap, do not get me started with Erin Burnett, who once said on MTP when asked how the stock market might react to President Obama's latest whatever, "It may go up or it may go down. It all depends." Wow. See above comments re: Panel Guests.

Remember, I told you I'd get back to Rep. Joe Wilson, aka The Face/Voice of The republican Party. Where do I even begin? No matter how hard they look--and they still are--the republicans will never find precedent for the disrespectful display put on by a member of their party during the President's speech last week. Newt (I'm Suddenly Everywhere) Gingrich tried lobbing a softball on MTP by mentioning "hearing boos" directed at The Angel of Death back in 2005 or something, but come on! Rep. Wilson, I have a few things to take up with you, and I hope your poor mother will forgive me. Did any Democrat ever call out any President a liar to his face on the floor of Congress, ever? Did anyone, ever? Until last week, the answer was no. You know, it's not lost on me (nor any other Thinking Individual, I'm sure) that it was you republicans who made a big effing deal about This President not being respectful enough of The Office to wear a suit coat in the Oval! Now we've got you, a republican who thinks it's just fine to call out the President of the United States as a liar in front of both Houses of Congress, not apologize until his party leadership told him to, and maintains that he is done apologizing, so there. Is this really what you envisioned for yourself?

Finally, it amazes me that so many people are, in a word, insane and completely inhabiting an Alternate Universe. They are screaming at town halls and sending psychotic emails and pretending to be patriots--er, excuse me--Patriots at so-called "tea party events" at which they say things that sound positively surreal. For example, in one poll 39% of respondents believed that the government should stay out of Medicare. Huh? These people are the same people who are forgetting that the current president inherited a big effing mess. To all of those people, I have to say this: "While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially." That's not Socialism, Nazism, or any other -ism. That's from the US Census Bureau. No one can fix everything in a few months, and it's obvious that you are nuts. Period. Now get back on your little scooters that the government is paying for, be careful that you don't shoot yourselves with your guns you bought at WalMart, and go home. Stop listening to the radio and go back to listening to your police scanner and looking for UFOs. Aren't you missing "Wheel of Fortune" or something?

One of the traditions of Festivus is the Festivus Miracle. I'd like to see one; I really would. Here is my idea of a Festivus Miracle: The republicans have styled themselves as the Christian/God Party, yet they seem almost phobic about the idea of helping those less fortunate. They cringe at the idea of a public option in health care; they become incensed that an "illegal" might sneak into an emergency room and get stitches. Don't they know that reference in Matthew where Jesus reminds them that what they do for the least of their brothers, they do unto Him? I'd like to see the republicans remember that. Just once. That's My Festivus Miracle.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Over-herd At The Most Recent Staff Meeting...

Friday was a teacher inservice day, and it started off with a big meeting for the entire staff. Our school is huge: my department alone has 18 teachers. Staff meetings, therefore, sometimes turn into impromptu social events wherein teachers whose schedules and the imposing physical plant of the building would normally prohibit it finally get an opportunity to reconnect. The result is a Delicious Irony. We teachers exhibit the undesirable classroom behaviors of our students. We talk during some presentations, we pass notes, we send text messages, we work on other things, we go hang out in the bathroom during the boring stuff.

And so it came to pass that on Friday, the following conversation occurred at my table during the General Staff Meeting:

Nance: Did you do anything over last weekend? Did you go to your lake condo?
Linda: Oh, god. I had so much crap to do. You know? Did you do anything?
Nance: We went to the Fair. Did you go? Oh my god. I saw the cutest cows. I had to be physically restrained. I mean it. I am more determined than ever to have one.
Linda: Have what? A cow? Are you serious? Like when? Are you being completely serious?
Roger: (leaning in, rolling eyes) Are you still talking about this? Linda, Nance is getting a cow for a pet when she retires.
Nance: (indignant) I don't know why you say it like that. I love cows. I always have. Rick is completely on board with getting a cow.
Roger: Somehow, I don't see cow maintenance coming from you.
Pam: Will you be going out to the barn in your heels?
Linda: You're serious about this. A cow. You've thought about this, I take it.
Nance: Oh, yes. And now that they've begun breeding mini-cows, it's even more ideal.
Roger: Cows are dirty. They roll around in mud, they crap a lot, they--
Nance: That's not true! They don't have to be dirty! Cows enjoy a nice bath; they do! Unlike dogs, cows can be bathed daily. I'll have a nice, clean little cow!
Pam: I like cows. But--
Nance: See! See! Oh, I do too!
Pam: --but I've never wanted to own one.
Linda: Why not just get a dog, Nance?
Nance: Dogs are too worky. You have to feed them, walk them, play with them. All that crap. Besides, we had Sam's dog with us for a while. Linda--it ate a door. Okay? NO DOGS.
Linda: Get a chihuahua. Like my dog. I swear, it's like a purse. You just sling it over your arm and carry it around. Really.
Nance: Huh? Then just get a purse. I want a cow.
Roger: There is no way you can sling around a bale of hay or straw and haul manure. No way. Look at you. Poor Rick. Rick is getting this cow. (shakes head.)
Nance: You know, Roger. I am so tired of this "poor Rick" crap from you all of the time. I'm not holding Rick hostage in this marriage, you know. There's no gun to his head. Like he has it so bad! Hmpf.
Linda: (squints at principal at lectern in front of room) What did he just say? What about semester finals?
Nance: He changed the days. Here, write this down...(recites new exam schedule) Will you email me that? I'll never remember it.
Linda: Sure. So you're serious about this whole cow thing, huh?
Nance: Of course.
Roger: Ask her the name. Go on.
Linda: Bossy? Elsie?
Pam: What is it? What's the cow name?
Nance: Velveeta.
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