Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween! Halloween! This is Halloween!

Happy Halloween!!!
Yes, Halloween.
Not "Autumn Carnival" or "Harvest Festival" or "Fall Fling."

Living in the big ol' shiny buckle of the Bible Belt, I am constantly reminded of how completely insulated, out of touch, and bored so many of my fellow South Carolinians can be. Today's holiday is one prime example.

Halloween is a hot button issue down here. Christian conservatives in this state spend a lot of time focused on keeping their kids away from all things remotely related to the celebration of this overwhelmingly commercialized, secular holiday. (They do not apply this same logic to Christmas.) To help combat the truly malevolent forces of things like Power Ranger costumes and jack-o-lanterns, you wind up with a lot of schools/churches/community groups sponsoring celebrations meant to take the place of the usual trick or treating. Kids can show up for rides and candy and other fun "fall" stuff. Some of them even permit costumes- so long as said costumes are nice and benign. Lots of angels and kitties; absolutely no vampires or zombies allowed.

This is f***ing ridiculous.Halloween is a holiday with a long, mixed history. Yes, some of it is pagan. And some of it is religious. Yes, some people have used the holiday as a mark for their own dark purposes. And some people use it as a fun, imaginative, silly holiday. People, it is what you MAKE OF IT. For 99% of America, this means kids in costumes inspired by televisions shows who are out to get jacked up on sugar. Letting little Suzie and Johnny dress up as Dora the Explorer and Jack Sparrow is not the gateway to their eternal damnation. Going from house to house gathering a bag full of dental doom will not result in your children joining a cult and drinking human blood for kicks on weekends.

What baffles me most about these anti-Halloween zealots is the amount of energy they devote to the absolute wrong things. There is enough legitimate evil in the world that should scare the ever-lovin' hoo ha out of people with kids. Why do these people insist on seeing darkness where it clearly doesn't have to exist? A couple of costumes from Target should be the LAST thing on a parent's radar in terms of things that could potentially harm their child. This is the insulated, out of touch part. Halloween is an evil they can handle, that they feel they can combat. The really scary things in the world are too big and too complex; so they channel their attempts to be a "good parent" into fighting against something ridiculous like Halloween.

I realize there are elements of the macabre in Halloween. Any holiday for which skulls and bloody severed hands are acceptable decorations is clearly not entirely G-rated. But it's PRETEND. It's IMAGINARY. Kids have a much better grasp on those concepts than we do. Taking things entirely too literally is a skill acquired much later in life. Ghost stories and other entertainment with supernatural/gory themes are part of our history, save for that brief flirtation with Puritanism. They represent our attempts to explain that which we cannot with a little mystery and some shocks thrown in for good fun. For the majority of us, dressing up as a vampire (even with a bunch of fake blood) will not deter us from becoming semi-respectable law-abiding citizens.

And while we're on the topic, can I note some of my own highly unscientific purely anecdotal findings? Let's face it, the kids who grew up in households that forbade Halloween and ear piercing and secular music were WAY more likely to hit the path to sin and degradation running. Seriously. Write down the names of all the kids in your neighborhood and note which ones are coming up in overly-conservative alarmist households. (Extra points for home-schooling for moral or religious reasons.) Tuck that list away and Google those same kids in about 10-15 years. I guarantee you the kids you've got noted from the special families will have been in trouble at a disproportionate rate to the other kids.

So this is my battle call: go forth and celebrate Halloween!! Wear your zombie and mummy costumes proudly! Buy that shrieking graveyard decoration! Take your kids trick or treating and skip that lame-ass church carnival!

Then go home and combat some ACTUAL evil. Campaign against every Republican running in your state.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dear Mr. Limbaugh: Go to hell.

Dear Rush Limbaugh:

Look in the mirror.
How low will you stoop, you egomaniacal pompous windbag?

You question a man who suffers from a legitimate degenerative disease? A man who has never done anything but try to use his time, his money, his energy (even as his own body is failing him) to help cure that disease?

What’s incredible is that your challenge of Michael J. Fox’s appearance demonstrates a horrific ignorance of the symptoms and progression of Parkinson’s Disease. What you saw in those political ads was a really good day for someone who has been living with PD for as long as he has- even with medications on board.

What’s even MORE incredible is that someone who has been publicly outed as a horrific hypocrite would have the nerve to question another man's credibility as they try to do good. What you SHOULD be doing, Mr. Limbaugh, is thanking God Almighty that you have the disease of addiction rather than having to endure the hell that Mr. Fox lives in day to day. You know how to control your disease (although you have repeatedly chosen not to). I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Fox would give anything to have that luxury.

I have to say, though, that your despicable tirade about Mr. Fox gives me great comfort. You’re scared, Mr. Limbaugh. You are frightened that you and your right-wing-nut-job friends are losing your hold. You’re so frightened that your reign of influence by publicly broadcast irrational fear, blame, and oversimplification is finished that you’ll kick a good man when he’s down but still trying hard to help.

Guess what? You should be scared. And now you’ve gone an extra step in exposing yourself for the unholy cowardly, hypocritical, power-hungry asshole devoid of any substance that you truly are.

We thank you for that. And someday, when you’re suffering from a disease that can be cured with medicine involving stem cells, you’d be right to thank us too. But you probably won’t. No biggie- you can explain it to God. I’m sure She’ll have some questions for you anyway.

The Liberal Child of a PD Patient

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Denise Austin Porno & Cooking School

When I flipped on the television yesterday morning, the volume was turned up pretty loud- something I wasn’t aware of before hitting the power button. So I was justifiably alarmed to hear Denise Austin’s voice boom through the house:


Having casually tossed the remote down, I scrambled like a crazy woman to retrieve it and quiet Ms. Austin before my neighbors called the police about the pervert blonde at the back of the cul-de-sac watching bad porn at outrageous volumes.

I was awake after that. So, thanks Denise!

On a completely different note, let me make a few comments on the Lauren School of Culinary Design. A woman we know recently asked if I would teach her to cook. I hesitated, but not out of unwillingness. I just wouldn’t know how to teach someone to cook- it’s not a step by step process I can outline while someone takes notes.

See, here’s the thing… much of my “cooking” is instinct and (to be totally honest) just making shit up as I go along. I can’t count the number of times Husband has enjoyed something I made and asked where I got the recipe.

Um… recipe? You mean, like instructions? PFFT! Recipes are for AMATEURS!

Seriously- being able to cook well is about 1/3 knowledge of basic flavors and processes, etc. The other 2/3 is just having the nerve to throw some stuff together and see what happens. Sometimes this goes very well; and the more attempts you make, the more often it goes very well. Sometimes it goes very very badly and all you can do is apologize and fetch the Tums.

Last night was an example of when things go well. I frequently get it in my head I want to make some particular dish (last night’s wild hair was beef stew.) So I go out and look at a number of different recipes for that dish.

But I almost never follow any of them.

Once I have a feel for the basic genre, I pick and choose bits of each recipe, add my own creative twists, and sometimes scrap everything to start from scratch. The beef stew recipes I looked at varied widely. So yesterday morning I got up and threw in the crockpot:

2 pkgs of stew meat pieces (I think they were “round”- don’t know- they were pre-cut and that’s all that matters)
2 big ol’ packages of sliced mushrooms
A ton of canned beef broth
A couple of tablespoons tomato paste
A number of pressed garlic cloves (What do you mean “how many?” How many can you get your hands on???)
Healthy doses of kosher salt, ground mixed peppercorns, and some fresh herbs (I think it was parsley, oregano and thyme… could be wrong)

I let it ride all day while I was at work. When I got home, my concoction was entirely too thin and watery for my taste. More soupy than stewy. (Stewy. That word creeps me out.) It made sense- there really were no starches in there. Note for next time- add potatoes. So I made a nice little thickening agent (a roux if you will) out of cornstarch and water. Threw that in there and voila, a nice thick consistency. Legitimate stew. (Wouldn't that be a cool band/album name? "Legitimate stew?")

Then I had to remedy the aforementioned absence of starch. I had Bisquick, so I made up some biscuit dough with some fresh herbs and parmesan cheese for good measure. Dropped those puppies onto the cookie sheet; 10 minutes in the oven; topped them with melted butter, kosher salt, parmesan, and garlic powder. TA DA! Fancy biscuits! Emeril, eat your lard-lined heart out!

Next time I will either add a variety of vegetables to the crock pot mixture OR I will make it stove top after work and add a little red wine instead. If I do the latter, I will switch to crusty French bread for the starch. If not, the biscuits stay.

See? Making shit up! Told you!

*Note: I do not recommend this technique for baking. Apparently measuring and using the “correct” ingredients is much more important when it comes to cakes, pies, etc. My laissez-faire add-what-feels-good approach results in disasters like this:

Yes, the Damnable Red Velvet Cake. As blogged about here and here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dispatches from the Baby Sis

My baby sister is hilarious. She recently moved from Gigantic City A to Sort-of-Gigantic City B to take a job with a non-profit doing community outreach and sex education. This was her email today:

Friends and Loved Ones:

Just a quick shout out from the Sort-of-Gigantic City B.

I'm settling in quite nicely. After two weeks, my belongings FINALLY arrived, and I am currently living out of half-opened-dug-through-boxes. I have, however, located such useful things as a rainbow lai, a 20 foot telephone cord (still in the box!), a pair of cat ears on a headband, and my potato masher (and since my mashed potatoes are world famous, I think this is an essential item).

The job is marvelous. I spent my days teaching sex ed to teenagers, meeting with community leaders, and taking donors out to fancy-pants lunches. You would hardly believe the sudden in-take of breath, the shock and awe, when I explain to 14 year old girls that, yes, in fact they have THREE HOLES (not two)! I particularly enjoy the exercise when we have 15 year old boys write down all the slang words they know for vagina, penis, and sexual intercourse... I go around the room and read all the words outloud in a deadpan voice. There is nothing like trying to say "one eyed big spitting snake" and "pink hairy taco" to a group of adolescent males without cracking a smile.

My apartment is vast (and mostly empty). I've made friends with the pot smoking jazz musician downstairs and the single mother of Kiddo (also downstairs). Kiddo likes to talk... a lot... so I am learning all there is to know about dinosaurs, macaroni and cheese, and the alphabet. My neighborhood is... charming in its own derelict way. I have only seen one prostitute, and we do in fact have a liquor store.

Friend M gets the gold star for the first (and only to date!) piece of mail. Please write, so that I might have your address to write you back in the many quiet hours of a tv free apartment (tv free by economic necessity, not by choice. I have missed TWO WHOLE WEEKS of America's Next Top Model, and it is truly painful).

All my love,
Baby Sis

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Simple Life

The last two weeks at work have sucked the ever-lovin' life out of me. There's no need to delve into the gory details, but let me make these notes.
Before going live with new time keeping/payroll and travel systems, it would be wise to:
a) finalize the details of how said systems will work, so that the training department can TEACH PEOPLE TO USE THEM
b) do so prior to the DAY THEY GO LIVE so that the training department can learn the systems and TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO USE THEM
It was a wild, wild few weeks. Suffice to say that I owe my assistant manager (Coworker Wally) about 500 pints of Starbucks ice cream and about twice that many days of comp time. So on Monday, I declared that the training department (um... that would be me... and Wally... and that's it) would be closed on Friday.

That being said- as much as these past few weeks sucked, this morning was all kinds of cake and ice cream fantastic! Around 4:30 a.m., I kind of about 1/8 of the way woke up. Not enough to annoy me, but enough I was conscious. And I thought "gee, I only have an hour until the alarm goes off." And then I thought "oh yeah.... I don't have to go to work today!!!!" It was the nicest moment of warm happy fuzziness. I was at the perfect temperature, the bed was all comfy, a nice cool breeze was coming in the window from the quiet stillness outside, Husband was snuggled up behind me... and I DIDN'T HAVE TO GO TO WORK TODAY! I fell back asleep smiling. Well, in my mind I was smiling. Didn't have a mirror handy. It's the little things, people.

It's 10:00 now. I've been up for an hour and I've managed to settle in on the couch still in my jammies with my second cup of coffee and some bad daytime television. OK, so I did throw in a load of laundry and feed the pets. And put some dishes in the dishwasher. And answered a couple of work emails.

This may be a sickness.

On to more good stuff. Sunday is our second wedding anniversary! That's right, I have somehow managed to keep Husband conned into putting up with me for TWO WHOLE YEARS. The man is a total saint. He's even indulged my new addiction to Dancing with the Stars. (Yes, yes, I know. I'm disgusted with me for you.) To celebrate 24 months of blissful brain-washing (you're getting sleeeeepy.... you reeeaaally love going to Ann Taylor...), we're taking a golf lesson and going to a nice dinner.

And in two weeks, I turn thirty. Thirty. As in twice fifteen. Three times ten. HALFWAY TO SIXTY. Wow. Is 2 weeks out too early to start drinking in "celebration"?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

This just in: I'm an idiot.

Email I sent to the ENTIRE company regarding an error message in our new time keeping system:

All Associates:
When you approve your time, you may get a pop-up box message telling you the approval is for both time pair and supplemental earnings.
Just lick OK and then your time should be approved!

Emails I received in return:

Do you really want us to "lick" it?
Just LICK o.k.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! o.k.!!!!
I can tell you are rushed, you said to "lick" OK.
Take a few deep breaths, or better yet have lunch.
Just "lick" OK? : )
You so funny!!!
I licked the screen 4 times, but nothing happened!

Email I had to send out to my smart aleck coworkers in response:

All Associates:
Please do not lick the pop-up box. The static electricity from your screen might zap your tongue, which would hurt.
So in accordance with our commitment to workplace safety, please CLICK the OK in that pop-up box.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Another Edition of Funny Husbands Rock!

Last night, Husband and I caught a few minutes of the SMU/Tulsa game on ESPN2. OK, so he actually saw a few minutes of the game. I just half-listened while trying to get comfy in the bed. That spawned this conversation.

Me: Why are they playing on a Tuesday night? That’s weird!

Husband: SMU would play on a Monday morning if they could get on national television.

Me: Oh.

Husband: Tulsa’s mascot is a Golden Hurricane. It cracks me up that a team from a land-locked state picked a hurricane, a tropical weather system, as its mascot.

Me: Really? A hurricane? It’s Oklahoma- where the wind comes rushing down the plains. Not where the wind comes blowing in off the coast.

Husband: Exactly!

Me: They should be like… the Tulsa Tumbleweeds.

Husband: Yeah, ‘cause those are intimidating. Tumbleweeds inspire fear.

Me: You don’t know! Those things could be very prickly!

Husband: The Tulsa Tornadoes would be good.

Me: Or the Tulsa Rabid Prairie Dogs. Now THAT’S scary!

Husband: (laughing) Yes, yes, it is.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Friend J

Email Exchange Between Me and Friend J in California:

ME: I am so so sad about this Amish school shooting. How far into the depths of hell do you go for shooting AMISH CHILDREN?????

J: Pretty far. I believe it's the "Circle of Total Bastards."

ME: Exactly. Why can't any of these crazy people at least do something helpful during their homicidal rampages? Like shooting that senator who was soliciting pages? Or Anne Coulter? R. Kelly maybe? I mean, if you're going to take your own life in a hail of gunfire, at least let the final act you're remembered for be something GOOD FOR THE WORLD.

J: I always love how it's the repressed republicans who wind up involved in bizarre (icky) sexual tawdriness.

ME: Yep, and have you noticed it’s always the ones who have introduced legislation to crack down on these kinds of things? Like this guy- who introduced that bill in ’03 cracking down on pedophiles? Ah, self-loathing… very useful!

And later:
ME: Cauliflower is a wretched, God-forsaken vegetable suitable only for inducing vomiting in poison victims.