Tuesday, January 31, 2006

This is when it sucks not to have cable. Bush's State of the Union (or, as it's known in my house, "The Fine Mess I've Gotten Us Into This Time") is on every. single. channel. All six of them. And you know how I feel about the president taking up my TV time. Thank God for the Internet and its bounty of instant-access entertainment. If you've never checked out Atom Films, I recommend it highly.

Right now, on my computer screen, a claymation Urbunny is being rendered into street meat as he's dragged behind a sedan in rush hour traffic. He's making the most adorable little bunny sounds. It's sort of sweet.

Meanwhile, on my TV screen, a rather animated chimp dressed in people clothes -- I swear, you'd almost believe he was human -- is moving his lips while the audience on his left stands and claps, grinning widely, like so many monkeys with cymbals between their paws. They're not making any sounds, because I pushed the Mute button 20 minutes ago, which is also so. fucking. sweet.

Technology really came through for me tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2006

is that a meatball in your pocket or are you just having a heart attack?

Toward the end of my Wednesday night Torture by Treadmill for Better Health, Rachael Ray took her final quick break from "30 Minute Meals" and left me to suffer through the third Hot Pockets* commercial to air during the half-hour show. And whilst I schvitzed my mind did wander, and I thought to myself: If the Hot Pockets people have developed a "healthier" product (a smidge less fatty but just as likely to kill you) that purportedly looks the same, smells the same, tastes the same ("He doesn't know it's Lean!") and costs the same as the original, why do they continue to sell the one that's REALLY bad for you? Shouldn't the new and improved version render the original obsolete? Does anyone else find this irresponsible?

Stop rolling your eyes. I know I rant about unhealthy food a lot. If you confiscate my soapbox I will only spread my gospel from atop your empty Hot Pockets cartons.

I visited the company's website this morning and was not at all surprised to find the following information listed for each product line:

  • Lean Pockets: servings per container; calories; calories from fat; total fat; Weight Watchers points; and a link to the complete Nutrition Facts label.
  • Hot Pockets: servings per container; ounces per serving (nine); and a link for "where to buy."
Clearly they're catering to two different audiences. And I get that -- it's how a multi-product business is run. But isn't there something to be said for doing just a few things and doing them right? Isn't there some inherent value in simplicity?

Also -- and mostly unrelated -- apparently Hot Pockets is holding some kind of t-shirt giveaway. To me there's a significant disconnect between a company that devotes a wing of its website to "Family Fun," and a shirt that labels the wearer "Fast & Easy." (I'm ordering mine today!)

So who's in charge there? Whose is the Great Brain that decided to keep Fat Pockets stocked in your grocer's freezer? And why is his left arm going numb?

I feel better now that I got that out of my system. I suggest all you Hot Pocket eaters do the same.

*This post is in no way meant to condone the consumption of any Hot, Lean or other type pocket. Except maybe pita, but that's really bread.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I think I've got a bad ovary. Lately her behavior... well, it's been erratic. Unpredictable. She's falling behind on the job. Could be booze, could be drugs -- I maintain a pretty strict clean-living policy but you never know what your employees are doing in their off time (and this one only works every other month). Now it seems she's absconded with my period, which is almost a week late and nowhere to be seen. (No, I'm not pregnant. Yes, I'm sure.)

If you run across these two please direct them back to work where they're needed.

UPDATE: A clue! This was in the Post today. The girls might be on some sort of pilgrimage, like hippies hitching to Woodstock.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

the resemblance is uncanny

I prefer to wear blue when I'm kicking ass, and of course I have eyes, but still -- the hair, the lips, the rack, the hips... I think I missed my calling as a crimefighter.

(Thanks 3, who found "Bat-Danielle" here.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I wonder, if my orthopaedist's gajillion-dollar hourly fee was being extracted from my checking account and not Blue Cross/Blue Shield, whether he would be quite so cavalier about leaving me freezing and naked in Exam Room 3 for nearly an hour.

It all starts out fine: The nurse asks why I'm there and I describe the sound that issues from my knees when I climb, squat and kneel: "It's kind of like... slowly cracking a celery stalk under a summer-weight quilt." (Dorky, but accurate.) She asks me if it hurts and I say yes, most of the time. Am I taking anything for the pain? No, I don't care for pills. I just use the elevator and try not to drop things on the floor. The nurse scribbles and nods in a way that says, "I feel you, girl," then hands me a paper tablecloth and tells me, "Take off everything but your underwear. Don't forget the socks. This opens in the back." And with a click of her pen, she is gone.

It's cold in that room. Cold and... what's the word I'm looking for... blowy. A blanket would be nice. Maybe some hot tea? The paper 'gown' (and I use the term as loosely as the big napkin fits my form) keeps malfunctioning -- over my shoulders and down toward my lap. I see it's labeled size L; must stand for Linebacker. I could try and fish my sweater from the pile of clothes on the floor but who knows when the doctor will show up, and I don't want to greet him with my gown parted like a curtain and my panties center stage.

So I sit. Stay. Start to look around. Stacked on the air conditioner, for my entertainment: Nine different golf magazines. Who do they think they're dealing with? Oh -- look at that! Medical illustrations taped to the wall behind my head. Fifteen minutes later I understand the inner workings of the shoulder. (Complex! Fascinating!) After 30 minutes I have memorized the knee. If I was staring at the gynecologist's wall I'd have learned to birth my own baby by now. But my gyno never keeps me waiting this long -- she's in and out before I know what's what. Women get that you're on the clock; I appreciate that now.

Why, oh why did I leave my iPod in the office? Maybe there's something to this doctors-on-retainer idea. Housecalls and undivided attention... Though I imagine even that could turn into a cable-guy situation if enough greedy patients catch on. "You say you might be having a stroke, Mrs. Goldman? Let me check the book... Okay, Dr. Berman will be there between 9 and 2 tomorrow."

I'm counting metacarpal bones on The Human Hand when Dr. G finally breezes in. He really is a nice man, and a good doctor. He asks, he listens, he does the hokey pokey with my kneecap and even indulges me in a bit of light gossip. (Suburban Jews know all the same people.) His parting gift: A hypochondriac's smorgasbord -- 23 local physical therapists from which to choose. But (this time) the problem isn't in my head, it really is in my knee. "Most of your cartilage is worn away," Dr. G says with matter-of-fact sympathy. "Not much we can do to fix the damage, just try and stop it from getting worse." And then he shrugs, grins and pats me on my paper-clad arm. "Welcome to aging, young lady. It's all downhill from here."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

rants, raves and a river in Egypt

Lunchtime, Wednesday, January 18, 2006: Building on last evening's post, I'm declaring this Rant Week here at Always Write. Every day this week -- which is that week, in case you hadn't noticed -- I will deliver a fresh tirade on an arbitrary topic. At least I'll try; this week (again, that week) I tend to be lazy. Just know that Bitcherella is reporting until Mary Sunshine returns. And don't knock me for being cranky -- at least I'm trying to harness the creative power of my horrormones.

Today's disgust is inspired by the big brains at Fox Broadcasting Company.

I'd like to think that if I had cable TV I would not have succumbed to that wasting disease called "American Idol" last night. Jesus, what a freak show. I couldn't look away.

My favorite characters are those not content to embarrass themselves in a musical fashion, or even in a fashion fashion. There is no such thing as bad publicity here; it takes a tantrum to make damned sure, for better or for worse, that America never forgets the name... uh... you know, they all looked the same to me. One by one they stumble from the audition room, eyes moist and lips trembling, and play to the camera one last time: "But everyone tells me how amazing my voice is!" "You people don't know what talent is." "When I'm famous, y'all ain't invited to my show." And the one I never tire of, "Fuck you, Simon!" And then comes the thrashing. The swearing. The choking, hiccuping tears. It's as if these young hopefuls have just learned a cherished pet was creamed by a speeding bus outside. Only that pet is a dream of stardom. And that bus is reality. Climb on board, kiddies, or be run down.

I blame the mothers. (I know, I always blame the mothers.) Those omnipresent stage moms in their stirrup pants and Bedazzled sweaters, pacing anxiously outside the audition like expectant new fathers in a hospital waiting room. "We done spent all Lurlene's college money to fly out here from Shitsville, but we made it. And now I'm here to watch my baby rise and shine like the star she is. This is it! I can feel it! She's gonna go all the way this time!" We should all be so sure of something at some time in our lives. No wonder Mama looks so shocked when her songbird is spat without ceremony through the doors of the inner sanctum. But come on. She wailed and flailed as if under a voodoo spell and yet you encouraged her to "keep on singin', baby, somebody gonna discover you 'ventually." Shame on you, stage mothers. You pump your talentless children full of false, unflinching confidence and send them careening into televised humiliation like lemmings into the sea. Oh, the humanity!

I will say this, though: It took a few years, but that Seacrest boy is starting to grow on me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

cookie push

You love your kid, and I get that. It's a beautiful thing. Really. I understand your desire to watch your baby girl grow into a winner, to see her come out on top, though of course you'll adore her even if she doesn't.

But please, I'm begging you, get off my case with those goddamned Girl Scout cookies.

You offered, I declined. "I know they're delicious, but I don't keep cookies in my house." That should have been the end of it; that should have been enough to pull me out of the drop-by rotation and off the distribution list.

But today it continued: "Subject: Help Lucy stay the top cookie seller in Brownie Troop 1685!"

It was kind of you attach the order form for my convenience. But I take my fats unhydrogenated, and I'm still not interested in buying any cookies.

Surprising me in my office will not change my mind.

"The lemon ones are low in fat!" They're still junkfood.

"Randi bought three boxes!" Randi could eat five.

"Buy them for a gift, then!" Nobody I know eats this dreck.

"Just a couple boxes of Do-si-dos! I know you love your peanut butter..."

Don't pretend you haven't seen me trudging out of the office in my running shoes every night for months. You know how hard I worked to lose those 12 pounds, how determined I am to lose eight more. What you're doing here? It's like pushing blow on an addict. There's a special place in Hell for people who prey on the weak and vulnerable. Especially those who do it on behalf of their kids. Does it make you feel good to know you'll be spending the afterlife with ambulance chasers and slumlords? No? Well, it tickles me pink.

Friday, January 13, 2006

this is the last I'm gonna say about it (alt. headline: "Call Me Che")

Sunday night I wrote a post about some... unpleasantness with my mother. Tuesday morning I took it down. Some people have been asking why. "Was there a nuclear fallout? Are you out of the will?" No, and probably, but the thing to understand is that I didn't write that post for entertainment, I wrote it out of frustration. It was a hard thing to do. And I didn't publish it out of spite, I did it because I was desperate, because it seems that this public medium is the only one through which my mother will absorb important information in any lasting, meaningful way. It's a simple matter of communication style; some people listen better without the distraction of talking. I'm the same way. Once my Mom read what I had to say, my point was made and I could take the post down.

Preliminary data collected through the grapevine indicates that I may have only fueled my mother's indignation, and angered a bunch of her friends to boot. Long-range results are anyone's guess. To be fair, when we got together last night neither the blog nor the tantrum were discussed, and my Mom was being extra sweet. I'm just not sure if she was making an effort or gloating under the mistaken impression that I un-published the story out of shame.

Here's what: I've always borne the brunt of my mother's rage and been the only one to stand up to it (one of many reasons I am considered "the difficult child"). Last weekend my entire family was involved and affected, and while the discomfort was nothing new, it was, for me at least, the last straw. I felt that to tell the story of our latest altercation, in all its ugly detail, was the only way to make Mom realize that maybe the problem lies not just with the lazy, ungrateful children who give her no choice but to roar her terrible roar and gnash her terrible teeth. (Again, in the interest of fairness: There's no shortage of love and praise there. She's proud of us and tells us all the time. She tells everyone all the time.)

My family backed me up on the post, but our solidarity lasted only a day. The storm blew over, the mess was swept away, and as usual I'm the only one still tripping over debris.

So for now, it's done. At least I can say I tried. If the rest of my family wants to keep the trailer parked in tornado town, I guess I'm stuck there too. To unhitch and move away would mean leaving them behind and for me, for now, that just isn't an option. Even in the path of occasional destruction, there's no place like home.

(Can you tell I saw "Wicked" last night? So good. There are monkeys. See it if you can.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

another irate customer

It is inevitable, as I invite people to read my blog and hope they're entertained enough to come back and read some more, that this little corner of Web space should cease to be my own. Sharing is, after all, giving away a piece of what's mine.

For the most part the blog has overflowed with unexpected benefits: My boss and some co-workers read, which may help make the case for my own column in our quarterly magazine. Some of my oldest friends read, which lets me keep in touch over long distances without bringing The Dreaded Telephone Machine into play. My immediate family reads, which has fostered a level of understanding between my mother and me that did not translate through the Language of Fighting in the first 30 years of my life. And as for the rest of my friends and relatives, I hope they derive some pleasure from my musings, come to know me better -- no small feat, I'm told -- and perhaps, as a result, find me a little less scary, standoffish and/or strange.

The unfortunate flipside to all these pros is that what started as an uninhibited catharsis has evolved into an exercise in self-censorship. My mother gets upset if she feels I've crossed a line. (Though that could be a simple misunderstanding based on careless reading.) My Grandma doesn't use the Web, but someone else in my family gets his knickers in a twist over a few stories I've told about her. (And to think, I was holding back.) I obviously can't write about work, not that I would anyway -- I think we all know where that road leads. I second-guess every post that covers weight, religion or lifestyle choices for fear that I'll offend a friend or, worse yet, destroy a friendship. Basically I'm no longer free to say what I really think about anyone or anything. Even though I sometimes say it anyway.

I cannot, for example, rant about religious hypocrisy or cheapness or wastefulness or boob jobs, bypass surgery, infidelity, ostentatious weddings, extravagant gift registries, children I can't stand or spouses I despise in enough detail that the subject of my discourse -- if there even is one, sometimes I'm just generalizing -- might get a clue he or she is on display. I am, however, welcome to describe any scenario that flatters the mind, body or soul of those in my family and their extended circle of friends. Be honest; be funny; but for God's sake, don't ruffle any feathers.

To some -- like those who aren't that close to me -- I say if you don't like it, don't read it. I'm opinionated and I use real-life examples to back up my claims. It's just sound journalism. And except for a few recurring characters I'm not naming names. But things get a little more dicey with the people I care about. The last thing I want is to hurt them, even if they are being hypersensitive. I once read an interview with a celebrity whose mother used to shame her for being a timid child: "Why do you shy away from people? Do you really think they're that interested in you? Don't be so arrogant." It sounded like the most awful thing in the world when I read it, but it's sort of the point I'm trying to make: I don't think anyone is arrogant for taking my opinions personally, but they should bear in mind that what I write on this blog, it's not really about anyone but me, what I think, what I feel. I'm not going to drag the skeletons from anybody's closet or ruin anyone's life (except maybe my own). Nor will I tiptoe around every topic that has the potential to start a little fire. That would be dishonest, and incredibly dull.

So yeah, I've got some of juicy stuff I'm not sharing. I'll just have to save it for another time, another audience, another, more anonymous blog. Which is fine with me; The Internet is a big place, with plenty of room for everyone. And most of my opinions, too.

If you're tempted to point out my hypocrisy, don't bother. I wear it on my sleeve.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I was sifting through my archives tonight and noticed that October and November were especially fertile months. I was writing a lot, and a lot of what I wrote was (if I may toot my own horn) pretty darn good. Because I was feeling good. And then came December, and lo, the pickins, they got slim. It isn't just work or the holidays, it's me.

I am not out, but I am down. I am struggling to remain emotionally and socially present, to be a worthy sister, friend and child. I'm afraid I am failing miserably.

To the people in my life it probably looks like "Danielle's entered another one of her funks," which they'll tolerate until I tumble out the other end like I always do. Whenever that may be. I feel fortunate to have friends and family who stick around through my rough patches. Then again, I work pretty hard to make things look smooth. I don't think anyone realizes how hard I'm kicking just to stay afloat and participate, even minimally, in life. I realize others exhaust themselves treading water the same way I do (especially bloggers, such a sensitive bunch of navel-gazers we are), but it's an exercise in self-isolation so I may as well be the only one out here.

If you're frustrated with me, try to understand: It takes tremendous effort to break my routine (work-gym-dinner-write) and spend time with other human beings. That routine is my anesthetic. Even if you're not a hibernator you might be numbing yourself too -- those of you who are always running shopping talking driving going going gone. You know who you are. We all do what we must to evade our demons when we don't feel strong enough to face them. In all the time I've spent lately hunched over my Powerbook, starting dozens of essays I can't flesh out beyond the first few lines, I've said I feel emotionally constipated because I haven't been able to write. In truth I haven't been able to write because I'm so corked up.

I almost just apologized for posting such a downer, but hey -- this is my blog. I've lost sight of that lately. It's still my space in which to speak my mind, and this is what's on my mind today.

I've been accused before of caring too much what other people think. Well, I don't really care if airing these unhappy, unfunny sentiments makes you think me crazy or tragic or brave or pathetic. I do care that it makes you think about those who are bumming you out with their moping and withdrawn silence. Realize that they're treading water and help them stay afloat -- not by doing something but by just being there.

There is much more to say on this subject; A history with medication and therapy and what I still think was a sound decision to stop taking pills and manage my depression in other ways. I started an essay about it two months ago and I will post it when it's done. Whenever that may be. But I've got plenty else to blog about in the meantime. Writing, even writing I never finish, seems to be the best therapy.