Friday, March 30, 2007

Playing Politics: Another Game For You

The Angel of Death's administration has made things way too easy to figure out: everybody is lying, everybody is cheating, and everybody who isn't smart enough to do that is an idiot. So I thought I'd provide you with a little brain teaser to test your political acumen and stretch out your current events muscles. Here's all you have to do: read the quotes below and match them with their speakers. I'll categorize them for you to help focus their context. Answers are given at the very end of the post, so grab a scrap of paper and a pen and scratch your head. It's time for Which Politico Pontificated?
Round 1: On The Iraq War
1. "We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam."
2. "We're not winning, we're not losing."
3. "He can swagger all he wants but we have 3,241 dead Americans."
Here are your possible speakers: A. Chuck Hagel, (R-NE) B. Tom DeLay, former senator (R-TX) C. Angel of Death D. Harry Reid (D-NV)
Round 2: On Running for President
1. "No tengo futuro." (translation: "I have no future.")
2. "I don't have any plans to run. Nor do I have any creative denials. I'm using the same ones. They'll soon be out on DVD."
3. "I'm going to tell you something, and whether or not it's plausible given the world you come out of is your problem. I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen."
4. "I've learned a lot of lessons being involved in politics. I also believe that when you are attacked, you have to deck your opponents."
Here are your possible answers: A. Arnold Schwarzenegger B. Hillary Clinton C. Jeb Bush D. Al Gore E. Newt Gingrich
Round Three: On the Current President
1. "He’s not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment."
2. "The president listened too much to the Vice President... Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the Vice President and, most of all, the Secretary of Defense... Rumsfeld will go down in history, along with McNamara, as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history."
3. "He has 24 months left in his presidency. I don't think I'm being mean-spirited by saying [that in] the first six years of his presidency, there's been nothing accomplished except the biggest foreign policy fiasco in the history of our country."
4. "I don't know if they're bad people. I don't know what's going on. I just know they got us into a mess, the likes of which this country has probably never seen. It's one of the great catastrophes of all time."
Here are your options: A. Donald Trump B. Harry Reid (D-NV) C. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) D. Newt Gingrich E. John McCain (R-AZ)
Round Four, Final: Potpourri
1. "I have a politically incorrect smoking tent -- I don't know if you have heard about that one. People come in there, Democrats and Republicans, and they take off their jackets and rip off their ties and they sit down and they smoke a stogy and they talk and they schmooze."
2. "If Al should decide to run -- which I'm afraid he won't -- I would support Al Gore."
3. "Let's say I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But it's very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved."
4. "I think that's weird and it's nuts. To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy."
5. "I have to be in politics or I will evaporate."
Here are your choices: A. Nance of Dept. of Nance B. Pres. Jimmy Carter C. Darth Vader (aka VP Dick Cheney) D. Pres. Bush #41 E. Pres. Bill Clinton (if there were gold font I would put his name in it) F. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Round 1: A C D
Round 2: C D E B
Round 3: C E B A
Round 4: F B C D E
How'd you do? Was it fun? All quotes were supplied by Taegan Goddard's Political Wire. I am on their daily mailing. I highly recommend a subscription to this feed if you're a (Democratic) political junkie like I am. If you didn't do so well, that can only mean one thing: you'd better start upping your dose of "Meet the Press" and Newsweek. Remember, a wise man once said that it was up to us "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Believe it or not, the guy was a Republican.
One of the good ones.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring Cleaning...Of My Head

My brain has been binging on random outrage for months now, so it's time to purge. I really wish there were a way to organize these little bulletins, but there isn't. It's like a cerebral minefield, so put on your flak jacket and step carefully!

*I am absolutely certain that there is no reason to have any more media coverage of the following individuals (and it pains me to even list them by name, so I will refrain from even typing their more commonly used monikers here): A.N. Smith, Brittney S., and Rosie O'D. and her supposed "feud" with Donald T. Stop it immediately. These "personalities" are not news. Good Heavens; enough is enough already. I think one of them is dead, even. Let. It. Go.

*In the newspaper there was an ad for a pet store and guinea pigs were being sold for THIRTY-FOUR DOLLARS! This is unequivocally absurd. When I was eighteen, I worked in the pet department of a discount store and we sold guinea pigs for EIGHT DOLLARS AND FORTY-NINE CENTS. Now, granted, this was almost thirty years ago. Okay. But, in that time, have guinea pigs been bred so extensively that they are now FOUR TIMES BETTER? What, are they self-cleaning? Do they...oh, I don't know...SPEAK PORTUGESE? OR GUINEA? Do they no longer pee constantly, requiring you to clean the cedar shavings of their home almost daily? Because, let me tell you: I owned, in rapid succession, three seriously cute guinea pigs (Eric, Cory, and Toby), but they were definitely NOT worth $34. And, let me also say this: I had no idea that ferrets, which are distinctly skinny, hideous-looking animals which are basically snaky, stretched-out guinea pigs, are horrifically overpriced at an alarming $129! This would be laughable, were it not a tragic case of robbery!

*The neighbor women behind us moved away. They did not inform me of exactly when their last day of residency was. Today, as I was performing the ritualistic Removal of the Bra While Still Wearing the Shirt maneuver at my back kitchen window, and was at the Triumphant Flinging of the Brassiere from Under the Shirt move, I caught the eye of our new neighbor who was outside on his deck, inspecting his new backyard. Clearly, a little notice from the previous tenants would have been in order . One never gets a second chance to make a first impression.

*If The Angel of Death continues to "stand behind Alberto Gonzales", I hope he gives him a good, hard shove.

*Now that it's Easter, I'd better be seeing a helluva lot more bunnies on tv. I think bunnies in general are a vastly underused source of marketing. Seriously, now. What is cuter than a bunny? And don't say "a baby." I've seen plenty of ugly babies in my day, all redfaced and squish-headed. And you know you have, too. Being a highschool teacher is no picnic in that department: students are always bringing me their babies or pictures of their babies. First off, I get irritated sometimes because I know darn good and well that I'm paying for that baby in some capacity. Secondly, I have to gloss over my own disappointment that the student has made That Mistake and now has been derailed in his or her education/life goals and may never get back on track, but here is this blameless child and I have to cluck and coo over it. Thirdly, if this baby is really and truly ugly--and some are--I have to say something nice! So, I say, "Oh my! Look at those little rosebud lips!" Or, "Look at you! Just look at you!" Or, "Aren't you just something!"

But, I digress. I was talking about bunnies. And bunnies are just cute. Why aren't they used more often? For like, lotion or fabric softener or bubble bath or blankets or something? Even at Easter, we don't see enough of them. My boys know I love bunnies, and so whenever we begin talking at dinner and the conversation runs awry into tense territory, like why their room is such a hellhole, suddenly Sam will yell out "bunnies!" And usually, I will get a far-off smile on my face and the whole diatribe just melts away. Seriously. Try it. Right now, think of something unpleasant. Got it? Now just look here:

(photo courtesy of

See what I mean? Who doesn't love a bunny? The word even looks cute.

*Today, I was watching "Meet the Press." One of the few Republicans I respect was on, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Arlen is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary committee and is one of the biggies who is trying to get Harriet "almost a Supe" Meiers and Karl "Turdblossom" Rove to have to testify under oath and in public about their role in the firings of the attorneys general. Arlen is attempting to broker a compromise. I wish he would have attempted to broker a compromise between his sportcoat and his tie this morning. Arlen, honey, pink striped cravats with foulard print do not harmonize well with a burnt sienna tweedy plaid coat. I'm telling you, I almost could not concentrate on Sen. Specter's astute analyses with all that going on. I am so serious. Bad fashion is just so...overwhelming. And for me to go all ADD when politics is at stake...well, you know it was bad.

*I don't get "dog people." And please don't try and make me. Dogs are worky. You might just as well have a kid. At least Jared and Sam, now that they are older, do not have to be taken outside and watched. And I do not have to hire a babysitter for them when I am away for extended periods of time. And they had the added bonus of not shedding. Ever. And although Sam used to randomly reach up and squeeze breasts though he was never ever breastfed, neither of the boys embarrassed me by burying any part of their body into anyone else's privates. EmilyCat and TravisCat do not have to be walked, do not bark, and do not have to be kennelled. I can leave for a week and just put out extra food and water. And while I do not enjoy having a shitbox in my house, it is better than having to take them out in foul weather and/or having a wet animal in my home. I like most dog people when they realize that I am not one and accomodate that fact. Non-cat people don't have to worry at my house: Emily and Travis hate everyone who is not The Dept.

Okay! I think I'm done now. This is so much better than paying for a therapist. Or at least I've heard.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When Is A Wallet Not Just A Wallet?

I walked into the kitchen to see Rick spreading out a bunch of papers and stuff on the table. "What the heck is all that crap?" I asked. He turned around, rueful expression on his face, doom in his voice. "My wallet got all wet while I was up on the roof helping Butch tarp it up. I think I'm gonna need a new one."

Immediately, I grasped the gravity of the situation. This was big. "Oh, no!" I said, sympathetically. "Wow. I mean--"
"Yeah, I know," he said tragically, surveying the damage to his black bifold. "But I just don't think it's gonna be the same. And it was bad to begin with. You knew that."

I sighed. "Geeze. Getting a new wallet is huge. If you can't find the exact same one, it's traumatic. It's like committing to a whole new lifestyle. If the credit card storage isn't horizontal, you have to get used to vertical. Once you're a bifold guy, you don't go trifold. You--"

"Hey! I'm no trifold guy! You know that!" Rick said. "I'm bifold now, all the way. Thinner, more lightweight. And now, I've gotten used to the flip-up ID thingy as a separate flap. The new wallet's gotta have that. One side for the ID; other side for the medical cards. That's non-negotiable. And black. Black wallet. Not brown."

"I'm all over it," I said. "Remember, you're talking to the Connoisseur of Purses here. No one is pickier about her purses than I am. Has to be leather; has to have a shoulder strap; cannot have any inside dividers; cannot have more than one fastener; the shoulder strap cannot be so short as to have the purse graze my elbow when I sling it on one-handed; the shoulder strap cannot be so long as to have the purse ride below my hipbone; the purse cannot cost more than fifty dollars. The only people who can stand to purse shop with me are you and Leanne, and I am not entirely sure that even Leanne can stand it anymore."

"I'm not even sure I can stand it," Rick muttered.

"Watch it, buddy," I said, "or you'll be shopping for your wallet by yourself."
Later, Jared joined us. "What's up with Dad's crap all over the kitchen table?" he asked cheerfully.

"Dad's wallet got wet and now he has to get a new one," I intoned dreadfully, searching his face for a reaction.

"Oh, man!" Jared said. "That sucks! A new wallet! Remember how hard it was to find me a new wallet, Mom? We went to how many stores until we found the exact one? Man! I'd rather go with no wallet than have to get used to a new wallet."

This was too good to pass up. "Hey, Jared," I said. "You go for the bifold, too, right? Like Dad?"

"NO. Trifold, Mom. TRIFOLD! The trifold is the way to go, Dad. Smaller, more compact. Bam! Everything right there. Your bills don't fold up in half when you take them out and put them on the counter. And the credit cards have to be on the left. Bifolds are shit, Dad. Geeze. The bifold. Come on. And brown. The brown wallet. Not black. What are you, a biker?"

Sam wandered in and I couldn't resist. Sam, the most fashionable member of the Dept. Men, was definitely going to have to weigh in. "Sam, what about your wallet?," I asked.

"What about it?" he asked. "I've had the same wallet for about 8 years. Brett left it over here and I just started using it. Come to think of it, I need a new wallet. Yeah, I should probably get one."
"What kind will you get? How about a nylon one? Doesn't anyone like one of those? They're supposed to be hardest to steal. With velcro," I added.

They all looked at me, pityingly. "Mom," Sam said. "How old are we, like 8?"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What's In A Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet."

Last night was parent conferences, aka "The Hostage Crisis." My day started at 7:30 AM and didn't end until 7:00 PM. All 120+ of us teachers were crammed into the gym and seated by twos at long tables. At 3:30, It began. The slow and steady trickle of parents wended its way around the maze, each of them peering like confused lab rats at the name signs helpfully perched at each corner of the rectangles. Naturally, the administration had done its part by changing the configuration and seating each and every time so that maximum entertainment value for its weary teachers could be achieved. (Hey, our district is so strapped that they can't even provide water, tea, or coffee for us! We have to have something!)

At conferences I renew my amazement/amusement at the names my students have been given. I am perplexed by the number of parents who plop down in the chair and announce, "I'm Sarah's mother." Period. Lady, I have 123 students this year. Six of them are named Sarah. Four of them are in the same class. Which one of them might yours be????? And then, when I handwrite a report on the spot for this parent, filling in the name of the student quickly, with an up-to-the-minute grade and percentage, with other parents in line breathing down her neck, does she thank me? No. She helpfully points out: "Oh, my daughter doesn't have the "h" at the end of her name." Graciously, I smile and say, "Oh, of course she doesn't. I was writing quickly. But the information is correct, let me assure you."

Another mom sits down and brings her daughter, one of my favorite charmers. We laugh and tease her. Her name is Shaquanta. I say, "I call her Shaq, like Shaquille O'Neal, for short." Her mother looks confused. She says, "Oh....Well, I just call her Quanta. I let my sister make up her name when she was born. I didn't really understand it, and Shaquanta spent most of kindergarten and first grade trying to pronounce it and spell it. She kept trying to use a "k". But pretty soon she got onto it. That was the last time I let my sister name one of my babies."

My tablemate leans over and rolls her eyes. "What the heck did she let her sister name her kid for?" she says. I just laugh. It starts me thinking about all the oddly-named students I've had over the years (I will give them all the last name Smith to preserve confidentiality):

Shatamela Pamela Smith...yes, exactly. I loved saying her whole name out loud when I called on her. It was like an addiction. I found myself calling on her even when she wasn't there.

These twins were very distinctive. Their mom was black and their dad was white. One twin was light-skinned; one was dark-skinned. You will not believe me, but I swear it is true:
Chocolate and Vanilla Smith.

We have had at least two girls at our school named: Toyota.

This is one I'm still trying to figure out: Clechie. Pronounced to rhyme with "peachy." It is a boy's name. But you probably could tell that. Yeah.

No one at school has ever gotten over this one: Jjiimmeellee. Did you pronounce it "Jimmylee?"
I'm sorry; that's incorrect. It is "Ja-Mell." I used to wonder if his mom was a stutterer.
A couple of years ago, I had a young lady whose name was spelled Tiey. Did you prounounce it "Tay?" BZZZZZZZZZZZ. Sorry; thanks for playing our game. It's to be said this way: "Tie-ya."

Last year, Tareyn was a girl. This year, Taryn is a boy. Last year, Ash was a boy. This year, Ash is a girl. I am so glad retirement is nigh. Do you know, in 26 years, I've never, ever had a single Nance?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What a Girl Wants

Mission accomplished. How do you like my new car? And don't I look stunning posing next to it?

Just kidding. First of all, I wouldn't be caught dead in that dress--it's hideous, and that fabric? cheapo cotton/polyester blend, you can tell. Secondly, I would never drive a convertible--I hate wind. It blows crap into my contacts and messes up my hair. Finally, anyone can see that car is not an American-made, hybrid SUV.

No, The Dept. has given up on the New Car for Nance Idea altogether. But you probably heard the sigh of relief from Ohio a few days ago. I apologize for the coffee breath. What can I say?

But I still have cars on the brain because I stumbled upon an article in which otherwise normal, and, I assume, educated people say the most idiotic things about "cars designed with women in mind." Now, in defense of our first spokesperson, George Murphy, Chrysler's vice president in charge of marketing, he says he is just responding to a women's focus group. (However, I must say here that I am sure that women in focus groups voice a helluva lot more concerns about a car's design than what you are about to read. At least the chicks I roll with do.)

"There's one neat aspect of this minivan which is what do you do with a wet umbrella. Well, we've provided this tray here," Murphy gushed enthusiastically to a reporter from a Cleveland news station. Holy crap. Are you kidding me? Is this really what women are inspiring in car designers everywhere? Wet umbrella storage? Because, I gotta tell ya...I just toss mine on the floor of the back seat and go. Oh no..."This is one thing told to us by them, and now I think it's really going to be a wow factor," said Murphy. If these women in these focus groups had the chance to smack carmakers around about safety and fuel economy and this is what they told them, then ladies, we have been sold out for a freaking plastic tray.

But it gets better: Ford's director of design, Patrick Shiavone, "said the Ford Fusion's interior is like an lbd -- little black dress." He went on to elaborate that, "the little touches of chrome is almost like wearing the right jewelry." Sigh. I spend very little time thinking about the interior of my car's style sense. As a matter of fact, the most time I ever spent on this was when I picked out new floor mats. I wanted grey ones, only because the carpeting is grey. The end. Truth be told, I don't even have my own "lbd." Good heavens. What a load of bullshit.

Good ol' Pat admits, though, "People want to be safe. And women especially want to feel safe, so you want to have the best safety" and then goes on to tout Ford's new hardware like airbags and rollover protection, for a whole sentence. But it just kills me that "women especially" want to feel safe. Because you know how we are. Such worrywarts about that sort of thing! Why can't we just let it go and drive, fergoshsakes??!! Duh! It's probably our fault that cars are so expensive.

Finally, though, a woman is interviewed! General manager Jill Lajdziak at Saturn will snap these boys into line with some cogent comments about what we women really want! Here's what Jill had for us: "We want what we want every day. We want to look great. You start to put on some jewelry, your earrings, your necklace. How do we do that? It starts with the lamp, the proud display of the brand bar and logo." Preach it, sistah! Wait--huh!?!?!?

What a disappointment. A woman sabotaging women everywhere. And why? For the company line. I'd love to tell Jill what she can do, proudly, with her brand bar and logo. But I'm too much of a lady.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Every Journey Begins With A Single Step: Help My Husband

Bless his heart, my husband is trying to buy me a car.

Most of you are probably reading the above sentence and thinking so what? Or, better yet, you might be thinking She's so lucky! I wish *my* husband would buy *me* a car! Or, if you are a careful reader, you might be homing in on the verb "trying." There you go: that's the key right there. For, dear Dept. readers, buying me a car is a journey fraught with considerable peril for so, so many reasons. Strap in--because I'm about to take you along with Rick on that virtual journey just for a moment. He feels so very alone right now, and he needs your help.

Mile Marker 1: The Start. My car is 11 years old and I love it. I hate to drive; no, I detest driving. But this car, a 1996 Ford Explorer XLT, loaded, electric and automatic everything, is a pleasure to drive. (That's a picture of the model up there.) It has everything I require, including a little thermometer above the rearview mirror that tells me the temperature outdoors so that I can complain about how cold it is or marvel at how warm it is in comparison to the ambient temperature inside my wonderful car. The outer mirrors are fully and completely adjustable with a mere push of a button from inside my vehicle. My power seats inflate or deflate to cushion and conform to my derriere. They also move forward or backward, electronically. I have the cruise control resident on my steering wheel. Even though Captain Audiotronics (Sam) replaced my factory radio with an unnecessarily complex one, I can find the buttons I require and "work" the CD player if necessary. This car has cost us less than $1500 in repairs, lifetime. I get decent gas mileage and only drive 5 miles roundtrip to work, Monday through Friday. We take 1-2 trips to Canada a year, and 1 trip to Maryland, near D.C. a year. It has been paid off for 8 years. We have no car payment. Did I say I love this car?

Mile Marker 2: Pothole Rick says, "This car is 11 years old. It's like shooting craps in Vegas. Pretty soon, our luck will run out. I am nervous driving long distances in this car. You are retiring in 4 years. Why not get a new car now, when there is 0% financing, and have it paid off when you retire and then have no car payment when your salary is reduced? You are making an emotional decision. We can get a more fuel-economical car. You are driving me crazy."

Mile Marker 3: U-Turn I remind Rick that in order for me to be completely comfortable driving, I have to have an SUV. I am tiny and have to be able to sit up above other cars. I have to feel like I am in a freaking tank. In order to reconcile driving an SUV with my personal, moral, and political convictions, the SUV must therefore be a hybrid and must, of course, be American. Rick sighs and sends Jared to the basement for beer. Correction: beers.

Mile Marker 4: Detour I have successfully, I thought, derailed the talk of buying a new car. Rick agrees to take me to the only Trader Joe's in the area--25 minutes away--so that I can get organic eggs and other quality foodstuffs. On the way, I notice we are not going to Trader Joe's. I have been ambushed. We spend the next 2 hours at car dealerships where there are no hybrids on the lot. Rick tries to get me to look at a reprehensible vehicle called an "Edge." It looks like a hearse and I tell him and the salesman this. They stare at me. I do not recapitulate. We find a dealership with a hybrid Ford Escape. It drives nicely and is very like my beloved Explorer. But we are misled by a previous dealer who had told us that the '08 models are at 0% financing; they are not. We say goodbye.

Mile Marker 5: Scenic View We stop at a Lincoln Mercury dealer who has a Mercury Mariner (?) to look at. But it is not exactly what we are looking for. By then I am cranky and cold and fussy, but I am heroically and stoically quiet. (Really! I was so proud of myself.) We do not drive it, but leave our names and Rick's phone number for when an '08 comes in that is what "we" want to drive and consider. They say they offer 0% financing on the '08s. Rick feels proud that he can just walk away with the upper hand at all of these places. I feel overwhelmed and confused and more attached than ever to my underappreciated Explorer, who has done nothing but give me practically uninterrupted service and unstinting loyalty for more than a decade. And this is how we thank it.

But I digress.

Mile Marker 6: Rest Stop We are now at a standstill. We have called friends whose opinions we value, we have talked and talked, we have slept on it, and we have sighed. And now, we don't really know what to do. The Lincoln Mercury dealership called yesterday. They have the car for us. We are going to go out and drive it Saturday. Then what? I have no idea. Today, my car, which makes a little honking noise sometimes when the heat or a/c is on, made it again, and all I had to do was rev the accelerator again a tiny bit to make it stop again. It's just a tiny little thing. Imagine having NO car payment. For SO LONG. And then having one. FOR SOOO LOONG.

My husband, I must say, has never made a bad financial decision for us. When we hash these things out and I cannot bear it anymore and announce exhaustedly, "I just can't make the call here. It's whatever you say. I trust you," it has always turned out excellently. So why, you are saying, can't you just let him go on this one? Because I am cheap, frugal, a spendthrift, and can't stand to go from NO car payment to A car payment. Period.

Update: Car salesmen are big, fat liars. Rick just told me he stopped at the Lincoln Mercury dealership today. The salesman casually mentioned that "oh yeah, the '08s aren't coming in at 0% after all, but we do have some attractive financing and the hybrids have some tax incentives---". Rick cut him off with a few words and left. We have found this with every dealership. Car salesmen have the credibility and integrity of the current Vice President and the rest of their ilk. Aaaargh.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Jetsetting Author Neil Kramer Celebrates Birthday

by Nance Deptof, USA Today

LOS ANGELES (AP)--Noted self-help writer and one-time blogger Neil Kramer will celebrate his birthday today by jetting from one end of the continental US to another to appear on several popular talk shows. Kramer is accompanied by his manager and wife, from whom he has been separated for many years, actress Sophia Lanssky, nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Odessa Veil this year.

Kramer burst onto the literary scene in 2008 with his self-help book entitled You're Okay, It's Just Me which rocketed up the New York Times bestseller list. His appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, in which he hugged every single audience member and openly affirmed that he might, in fact, be the reason for global warming made him a household word. His follow-up book, You're Okay, I'm Just a Little Nauseous was an instant hit and insured him a permanent spot in the pantheon of such self-improvement literati as Thomas Harris, Wayne Dyer, and Norman Vincent Peale.

Catching up with Kramer proved to be difficult. Luckily, there was time before his flight left for New York, and he was in a chatty mood. We ate at Dinah's, a 1950s style diner with a killer Dutch baby on the menu. Kramer instructed Lanssky to search his daybook for a coupon he thought he had, but it turned out to be for Pann's instead. I turned the subject back to his latest book, Be of Good Cheer, which is due to be released this week.

"It's my tribute to my father," Kramer said, "and the lessons he taught me about love, laughter, and life. And really, about how to treasure those things. And others. Other people." I asked him about treasuring himself then, since his other books seem to fall a little short on that topic.

"Oh," he said, "I leave that to other people. If you live right, other people should do that for you."

You must be doing it right, then, Neil Kramer, for you certainly are a treasure. Happy Birthday, and be of good cheer!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why Are Parents So Stupid? (With an Appearance by the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Sometimes, it's hard to tell the truth to your kids. This is a fact that doesn't change, no matter how old they get.

I came home from school today and plopped down on the couch next to 21-year-old Jared, who was multi-tasking. He was watching ESPN, emailing, creating a spreadsheet for the fantasy league of which he is now the commissioner, and eating a late (!!) lunch of a frozen pizza. (I should have such a strenuous day. I had wrangled teenagers through American Lit. and suffered through a pulled fire alarm which sent all 2500 of us out into the streets during 37-degree weather and a persistent drizzle for 15 minutes of numbing cold. But, I digress.)
Suddenly, a preview for the new Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle movie interrupted us. "Feh," I said dismissively, once I saw the heavily shaded CGI graphics. "We saw the original back in the 80s. Live action, remember? You were just a little guy."

"What!? You must be kidding! I am pumped!" my son said. "I can't wait. This year is the Year of Jared, Mom. Do you realize that The Transformers movie is coming out, too? I loved the Transformers. I collected Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers. I'll be reliving my childhood!"

"Jared. What the hell are you talking about? You never had a single Transformer," I said. "You and Sam owned every Turtle action figure ever made, but neither of you ever had even one Transformer guy. Seriously. Those came out way before you were old enough to play with them."

Jared continued to stare at me, dazed and openmouthed during this entire declamation. He looked as if I had just told him that there was no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, and that he was, in fact, adopted.

"You had these little toddler toys, like blocks, and they opened up on a hinge into people like a sailor and a policeman, but they weren't Transformers. Maybe you're thinking of those."

He blinked, still fishmouthed, and struggled for words. I waited. "Jared," I said. "Seriously. You never had any Transformers."

He took a deep breath and composed himself. Then, "Mom," he said. "You know absolutely nothing about my childhood."
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