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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Friday, September 30, 2005

Who Can It Be Now?

In Hollywood, there are certain prototypes for actors. One actor becomes famous for said type and before you know it, agents are scouring the planet looking for someone who is just like that someone. See, there's one camp that believes in originality. This camp, however, is the direct opposite of those who subscribe to the "ain't broke, don't fix it" tactics of casting.

Years ago, actor John Larroquette said it perfectly. Luckily I wrote it down.
"There are five stages of an actor:
1. John who?
2. Get me John Larroquette.
3. Get me a young John Larroquette.
4. Get me a John Larroquette type.
5. John who?"

Here's a few more examples. A few years ago they touted Brad Pitt as the new Robert Redford. They even, don't laugh, called Scott Wolf the next Tom Cruise. Matthew McConaughey was the next Paul Newman, and now Josh Lucas is the new poor man's McConaughey. It's a virtual merry-go-round of actors, if you will.

There are 3 actors that fit into this trend perfectly, only they break the mold by transcending time. Instead of being of the same type from different time periods, they are the same type of the same time period. These actors are Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Topher Grace.

Now I'm well aware of the fact that there have been other actors that have been popular simultaneously who also have similarities. But the amazing thing about this trio is that they all have the everyman look. They're the average joe guy you know. The nice guy who finishes last, except for in the movies. Only now the one guy who would have finished last is actually three guys who finish first and quite frankly, that doesn't make sense at all.

Up until now, the paths of these men have been relatively parallel, but I have no doubt they have come close to intersecting more than a few times. Originally Tobey was at head of the pack, hands down. He ruled his Cider House. He made Pleasantville, umm, pleasant. He IS Spider Man.

But then the tides changed. Tobey's reign become to be threatened by the increasing popularity of Jake "Donnie Darko" Gyllenhaal. In fact, as I type this, Hollywood is in the throws of being taken over by not one, but two Gyllenhaals. Incidentally, Maggie is also a "understudy" replacing Parker Posey as indie movie queen...until she goes mainstream that is, which is only a matter of time. Here me now, believe it later.

Topher played it the safest out of the group. While the others were to duke it out on the big screen, Topher "Don't Call Me Christopher" Grace, was content to rake in the dough on a steady sitcom salary for That 70's Show. But then Ashton Kutcher happened. I'm not sure, but I'm pretty certain Topher's internal dialogue went something like this:

"Ashton is another movie...again? And now he's all over the press for babysitting dating Demi Moore, too? What does this guy have that I don't? Ok, so maybe he was a Calvin Klein model but looks can't be everything, right? I mean just look at Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. Wait a second..."

And then my friends, the seed was planted.

Before you know it Topher was all about making the move from tv to film, striking while the iron was hot. First came Win A Date With Tad Hamilton, then came In Good Company, next comes Topher... with a carriage of money.

So now, it's anyone's game. According to IMDB, the 24 year old Jake is in five movies that haven't come out yet. The 30 year old Tobey is still going strong with four movies yet to be released. And the 27 year old Topher has one movie in the works.

But it's not about the quantity, it's the quality, right? So in that case, let me just say this. Remember that one movie that Topher is in? Well,..are you sitting down? It's the very same movie Tobey is in. You might have heard of it. I'm not sure. It's a little diddy called Spiderman 3.

This is where I become confused. Putting Tobey and Topher in the same movie. Is that ingenious or just incredibly stupid? In one sense, these actors need not compete for audiences. This way you get two "guys you don't know but feel like ya know" for the price of one. But then I think of the poor director, trying to differentiate between the two, most certainly ruing the day they made that casting decision.

In the future, however, this madness has got to stop. In my opinion, there's simply no need for all three of these men. Why divvy the parts between 3 guys when one guy could have a slew of good parts all for himself?

That's why I propose a solution we can all agree upon. I vote for Topher, hands down. He's the most understated, but arguably the most talented of the three. He's the dark horse of the average guys, if you will. He's a master at sarcasm and dare I say it, the cutest of the three. He's also had the least amount of opportunity thus far. It's time there's a new quasi king in town and Topher is just the man for the job.

So you call the Gyllenhaal camp. I'll call the Maguires. Be succinct and to the point. Tell them we'd like to thank them for the services they rendered, but really, we no longer need them at this time.
Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Art of Walking Out

Proof that teachers make mistakes too. Here's another guest post somehow lost in the shuffle from Brandon.

I have watched the movie Office Space many, many times. Every time I watch it I wish that someday I could walk into my office in the middle of the day, grab a couple of important things, ignore a boss and just turn around and head out. So imagine my joy and giddiness when this same opportunity presented itself last week.

But first, a little background. I recently moved to California from Seattle with my wife, a new resident physician at the local county medical center. I worked on getting a job for about a month failing to secure even a modest position waiting tables or slinging drinks. So I caved in and went to the dark side...A temp agency. They found me a job as a disposable typing monkey with a humongous entertainment corporation. As soon as I realized just how stifling and depressing corporate life could be, I started searching yet again for something less wrist slit-able.

One afternoon, while skipping out on a lame attempt at a going away party for another temporary drone, I went to a job interview with a small toy company. I knew right then that I would get this job and I started planning my escape from corporate hell. I looked at the calendar and guessed that I would probably start on Monday, the 13th, the week after a quick vacation that I had planned back to Seattle in which I would miss Monday (Labor Day), Tuesday and Wednesday anyway.

Luckily, I got the job the day before Labor Day weekend and I informed my boss before I left for vacation. He asked if I could work that Thursday and Friday after my vacation and I foolishly agreed. I should have known right then that there was no way I would ever work another minute for that company, but being a sad, broke bastard got the best of me.

Thursday rolled in with one of the most gorgeous mornings we have had since moving to California. Having arrived from Seattle at nearly 3:00 AM didn't help things either, but I still thought I would make it into work. But when that first alarm went off, I hit the snooze bar once, then twice and then the next thing you know, six times. By this time I was already an hour late, the sun was beckoning me to the beach and the vision of Peter swept through my mind. So I threw on some shorts, a t-shirt, a ballcap and my flip-flops and headed to the office.

I rolled into my group with a mission: grab my desk toys (I couldn’t just abandon a Blackbeard action figure, a set of Cubes and a miniature zen garden could I?) and get out. Nobody seemed to notice anything different about me when I arrived. A few jokes flew about me being an hour late, but other than that, nobody knew that anything was amiss. So I took out a box and quickly started packing up my stuff and I started to notice everybody turning to watch me, mouths widening, eyes bulging and sweat beading on their foreheads. I wrote down my email and phone number for the two people I actually liked working with and then turned, said goodbye and walked out, leaving everybody behind dazed and confused and in a state of shock. I had become exactly what I wanted in this moment: the main attraction. And it couldn't have felt any better.

Sure it was cowardly, sure it was irresponsible, sure it is a poor reflection of who I am and what I believe. But it was also a lot of fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I spent the rest of the day body boarding and working on my tan at the beach with my wife. Was it the perfect day? Maybe. Maybe not. You really should try it some time and decide for yourself.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Problem Child

It looks like we've reached the end of our rope...guest post wise that is. Savor this, courtesy of Cav.

Kids crack me up with what they do and definitely with what they say. I think it will be a lot of fun to be a mom, but at the same time it will be a triumph of endurance. I have two big dogs. I have to keep up with them, pick up after them, let them out, etc. In a way, it is a good prep for having kids. Right?

Well, I have an idea for good child preparation. I will call it Kid-n-a-box. You can pick your gender by either a Tommy or a Lucy. Tommy is a two year old who has a bowl cut and wears blue osh koshes. Lucy is two year old with a curly top and wears pink osh koshes. Tommy and Lucy are perpetual two year olds. They aren't potty trained, they take naps, their teeth are coming in, they are scared of the dark, they are still learning to talk and don't necessarily know right from wrong. They also come with leashes. Hahaha.

Side note: Ever been to Disney Land or Six Flags where you see little kids on a leash and harness? Bwahahah. Makes me think of that SNL skit with Mike Myers tied to a jun
gle jim with a helmet on.

Anyway. They also, when times are bad, have an on/off switch, but you should rarely want to use it because you want it to be a learning experience.

Ok yes, I know this sounds weird. Why do I like the idea of Kid-n-a-Box? Straight up: because retribution of my childhood demons. My mom said I was the best baby. I hardly ever cried and would sleep all through the night and day. Then at an early age I. BEGAN. TO. CLIMB. AND. TALK. My mom will tell all that I was a holy terror before knowing the Lord and having some sort of conviction. I knew right from wrong and didn't care. Lucky for the world and for ME that at an early age I found redemption, but from about 1.5 to 7 I was in cahoots with the devil.

The stories of my chaotic childhood are infinite and alarming. If I did now what I did then, I would probably be in an asylum. My mom and even some old time friends said I was the most mischievous child they ever laid eyes on but also could get away with it because I was so gosh darn cute. Here are a few terrorizing things I did in the 80's.

Remember those little plastic boats we used to have for "bath time" that were different primary colors? Well, I thought it was necessary to flush all of them (I think 5 in all) down the toilet. This not only ruined the toilet, but also the plumbing. They ended up having to remove the toilet from the bolts on the floor. $$$ Remember those little hand held games before the game boy came along like Frogger and Donkey Kong? Yeah, well we had Pac Man, that my parents love, and in some rage I turned on the stove and put the game on the burner. Smells of burning plastic and batteries filled the air. It melted and ruined the burner. No more Pac Man. $$$ Remember those colorful alphabet magnets everyone put on their frige? I decided to take all the magnets off the refrigerator and put them on the underside where the motor ran. This actually ruins the mechanics of the frige. $$$ How would a 2 and a half year old know how to do all this? Dun Dun daah...the devil. I think everything listed above took place in one 24 hour period.

Another sad note, during this time I also was addicted to drugs. My mom once found me in the kitchen having an overdose. Yes, at the age of 3 I ate a whole bottle of Flinestone Vitamins and got to experience the wrath of ipecac syrup. I also did the same with childrens aspirin.

Then there was that other time I picked all the tulips out of our neighbor's yard and brought them to my mom - roots and all. That was a good one. I also drew with crayon on my neighbors formal dining room wall paper. Hey. I thought they needed a change. I remember one time getting a pop on my behind from some woman at church for taking a smurf stamp and stamping the white carpet.

Then of course...there was all the lying. Mom would say "Did you get in the chocolate cookies?" I would shake my head and say "No, Kyle got in them". Kyle = older brother. However, all the while I had chocolate all over my face, shirt and hands. Smoooth! I also remember inviting my neighborhood friend over and telling her kibble and bits was chex mix. She actually ate it and I laughed at her and she ran home. Devil child. Mom would also ask "Did you get money out of my purse". "No mommy, Kyle took it." My poor brother.

Speaking of brother, I would go into his room after he built a fort with sheets or blocks and come and destroy it like Godzilla and then laugh with glee. Also, I would open up drawers and empty them out so I could get in them too....hmmm...just to get in them. I would do the same thing with cereal. I would pour the whole box out on the floor. I also remember getting so mad at my brother I would try to choke him. Ahh, memories.

I know now my behavior was bad and that is why friends, I am scared the demon child gene will be passed on to my spawn. You know, what goes around comes around. On the other hand, my parents will also say I was a precious child yet bombadeer. Please do not think my behavior was a reflection of my mom and dad's parenting skills. Funny enough, my mom had a Masters in Early Childhood Development. In her defense, mom was at battle with She won in the end.

So in closing, like the good book says, point your kids in the right direction -- when they're old they won't be lost.

Here I am with my devilish laugh and spreading fruit loops from east coast to west.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "Quote, End Quote"

Last week I asked you for your favorite classic line from a classic movie. Now I want to know your favorite classic line from a rather obscure film.

I realize some of you already skipped ahead and did this. Hell, even I did. That's ok. Just tell me another one of your favorite movie quotes. Here's the catch. Don't tell us the film. If you figure out the person's movie in the comments, include the answer in your comment. Let the quoting begin!
Monday, September 26, 2005

Some People Are So Thick

Just when I think I'm done they pull me back in....A guest post from Either Orr.

It now appears that the London blasts were the work of murder-suicide bombers. The Islamokillers don't seem to run out of these types, do they?

It boggles the mind, especially when you realize that these guys are told beforehand that they're going to hell, yet they still strap on the explosives and blow themselves and others to smithereens.

Why do I say they're told they're going to hell?

Well, Osama Looney Bin Laden, al-Zarqawi and their ilk are promising these souls 72 virgins, courtesy of Allah, when they arrive at their final destination. Why 72? Who knows? Maybe there's some significance in 72 that I'm missing. But these folks are buying into it. There's only one small problem. The murder-suicide bombers are not going to be in a position to do a thing with any of the 72.

You see, they're dead. And dead men don't have sex.

When you die, you are no longer a corporal being. You become a spirit. Spirits don't have sex. So having 72 virgins at your disposal and no means to satisfy your primal urges is hell, isn't it? There is, of course, the possibility that you could undergo reincarnation... but I believe that only applies to Shirley MacLaine, who in her next life will return as a moonbat. (Oh, you say she's one now? Never mind.) Also, the way Osama, al-Zarqawi, etc. present Allah don't exactly put Allah in the most positive of lights. They make him out to be some sort of sexual procurement agent (translation: pimp).

I would tend to think that Allah should not be quite so sexist. After all, there are female murder-suicide bombers, too. And what good would 72 virgins do them?
Friday, September 23, 2005

Like Sands Through the Hourglass, Those Were The Days of My Life

My name is Janet and I'm a former soapaholic.

They say everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten. Well everything I needed to know came from watching my soaps. Although I've been "clean and sober" for about 10 years now, the first 18 or so years of my life were spent in fictious towns, full of people who never had the same name. Ever.

In my defense, I was born into a soap opera watching family. My grandmother has slept through her soap operas for years now. And then there's my mom. I think she even watched soaps while I was in the womb. Some babies had soothing sounds of the ocean. I had overdone closeups and macabre background music.

A great thing about a daily soap opera is just that- it's on daily. Barring the occasional newsbreak (I'm still bitter, Oliver North!) or holiday, you got to "hang" with these people day in and day out and because of the VCR, you could visit them over and over again. There were no repeats. No summer hiatus. There was no need.

It wasn't until I was about 7 or so that I started to watch soaps pretty faithfully. I started out with Guiding Light because it was my mother's soap of choice. At the time, I wanted to be Mindy of Mindy and Rusty . After awhile, I also dabbled in Days of Our Lives because my friend watched it and loved Jennifer and Frankie. I never took to the super popular, super couple infested General Hospital, but everybody and their mother seemed to hang out there.

My eleventh year was when things really got out of hand. It was 1989. I was in 6th grade. Most girls were just getting into boys and makeup. I was just entering the the "living vicariously" phase of my life.

It was then that I first really got hooked on the "boring to most" pairing of Chelsea and Johnny. I was obsessed with them for about a year, as was often the case, before moving on. It was like a drug. I'd tire of one and find another, usually diving deeper into a downward spiral of shame, a la VH1's Behind The Music.

After Johnny and Chelsea I discovered Scott and Faith. I was in the 7th grade and as best as I can describe it, I was in love with the idea of love. But another pattern in my life has been being drawn to the obscure. This often backfired. So when it came time for contract negociations, it was usually no surprise that my faves were the first to end up on the cutting room floor. Scott and Faith were no exception. Words could not express how devastated I was when they got the ax. It felt like a family member had died. So much so that my actual family members wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Incidentally, this is also what I imagined a real life break up might feel like.

After Scott and Faith faded into the proverbial sunset, they were eventually replaced by my second favorite Days couple at the time,
Jack and Jennifer. This couple broke the mold. For one thing, Matthew Ashford, who played Jack, was hysterical and so it was the first time I saw a super couple also be funny. For another they were, at the time, immensely popular, at least in soap opera fan land. For the rest of the world, not so much.

This brings me to my other thing about soaps- soap stars simply do not age. I swear. It's eerie. The other day while flipping through the channels I caught a glimpse of the Jack and Jennifer of today and they looked EXACTLY the same. What the...? It's been 15 years!?

But before I get too far off track, let's get back to the embarrassing retellings of my psychotic tendencies. I don't recall the exact moment where one obsession ends and another begins, but I think I have an idea. I loved to watch the courtship. The will they or won't they. The hurry up and wait. The angst. The pining.

But shortly after the couple finally got together, my mind started to wander. I mean I was happy for them and all, but not happy enough to watch them be happy cause let's face it, happy soap opera couples = boring. You're happy! We got it! Where's the mystery there?

This is when I'd subconciously begin to seek out a new obsession and I found I almost always had a suitable replacement waiting in the wings. In 1991 I discovered Another World...literally. It was also when I discovered Dean and Jenna. With Dean and Jenna, the formula had once again, changed. Not only did I love Dean and Jenna as a couple, my fourteen year old self also believed I was truly in love with the actor who played Dean, Ricky Paull Goldin. I joined his fan club, and I even met him live and in person at random malls and fairs in NJ, not once, but twice. Believe me, it would have been more if I had just been a few years older.

But after Dean and Jenna died down, I slowly moved my way away from the now utterly ridiculous Days and the ultimately cancelled, Another World, and even finally the one where it all began, Guiding Light. Finally I was only dabbling every once and awhile before finally making a clean break sometime in college. It wasn't until then that the cliches began to wear thin and my interest began to wane.

Parting with my soap obsessed self was indeed, sweet sorrow, although traces of those days can still be found, if you know where to look. The watching of soaps, for example, definitely tempered my real life love life experiences, be it for the good or bad. And then there's the watching of daytime soaps which inevitably evolved into watching nighttime soaps like 90210, Melrose Place, My So Called Life, Party of Five and even now, shows like The OC, which is another irony considering Melinda Clarke, Julie Cooper on The OC was also Faith of Scott and Faith. And now everthing old is new again.

This brings me to something disturbing that is often the case in soap land. There's a lot of bed hopping. So I suppose a natural extension was there was also a lot of show hopping. Over the years, many of my favorites have surfaced on other soaps. In my experience this is rarely a satisfying experience. On one hand your happy for the star and wish them success, but on the other it just isn't the same. Just like the expression says, you can take the star out of the soap, but not the soap out of the star. Err. Something like that.

It's weird when former soap favorites resurface, but it's even weirder when they start pairing former favorites up with each other. My mom still faithfully watches Guiding Light. One of my favorites of all time, Harley, played by Beth Ehlers is now with my "former flame" Ricky Paull Goldin, which to me is just plain weird. It's like picturing your sister's husband suddenly marrying your other sister. Quite simply, it isn't done. Unless you move from fictious town to fictious town, of course.

Recently nostalgia got the best of me and I pulled out a few dusty VHS tapes for old times sake. Not only is it great to watch the old episodes, but it's also a great opportunity to see stars before they were stars in commercials and products that have seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth (Lifesavers Holes, anyone?)

Believe it or not, there are soap related stories I could tell you that would make me look even more pathetic than I do now. I know, I know, as if it were possible. While I've more or less let go of those days, and come to think of it, any "Days" actually, I sometimes still wish I watched, or could "relive" it all over again. Sure it was a bit overdone, but it was my youth. I guess my days in another world were apparently only when I was young and restless and no, I never watched that one.

Then again, never say never. There is this little known network now called Soap Net that I recently discovered has been playing, are you ready for this, old Another World episodes! Currently, they're on the year 1989, just a mere year away from when Dean first made his appearance, some episodes of which even I have never seen.

Do I dare go there again? As they say in soap opera land, tune in tomorrow...
Thursday, September 22, 2005

Toothpaste and Affordable Housing

And now for a post that is near and dear to my heart in more than one way. A slightly older, yet still timely, guest post about our lovely Garden State courtesy of Sharon.

I spent part of the holiday weekend scrubbing petrified toothpaste out of my friends' bathroom.

Interestingly enough, it wasn't their toothpaste. They just bought their first home and it was left positively filthy by the previous owners. My friends are lucky enough to have a few weeks between their closing and their move-in date so there's some time for the big clean-up. Seriously, it looks like the previous owners kept the house nice to show but once there was a contract in place they quit cleaning or weeding the yard. My friends don't care; they have a house for their child to grow up in and little will dampen their happiness about that.

We live in New Jersey; the greatest state in the U.S. (Boy, there will be some comments on that one!) but one of the most expensive. Housing prices went up 17.76% in the past year, and we pay the highest amount monthly for our housing costs, while having the fifth-highest median home values in the nation. Our property taxes are scary while our total tax burden (State, Local and Federal) ranks 3rd in the nation for 2005. And, as you've heard if you live here, we only get back 57 cents in Federal spending for each Federal tax dollar we send to Washington.

In other words, you'd better love it if you live here because you'll pay through the nose to do so.

Somehow, we stay. Through shrewd market analysis and careful planning (OK, dumb luck and our apartment being sold out from under us) we bought our home 11 years ago before the market bubbled up as it is now. We had a home appraisal done six months ago before major work and found the home had increased in value over 130% since our purchase. Floored was I. It's not like we had done a major renovation or anything during that time; we just kept up with the yardwork and general maintenance. Suddenly, my home was worth more than I could afford. How can first-time buyers manage it?

The short answer is, they often can't. There is a housing crisis in Our Fair State. It's a crisis in that affordable houses in decent neighborhoods are nearly impossible to find. My new-homeowner friends waited for years until they had enough money, then had to find a home they liked and could afford, then had to wrangle every step of the way to get through closing. It shouldn't be this hard.

Some will say there's a housing shortage and we have to continue to build. I have a hard time believing the McMansions that are being thrown up on every spare inch of former farmland or forest will solve the problem of a middle- and lower-income home scarcity. Plus I would like my kids to recognize a tree when they grow up.

A win-win situation is to develop dilapidated sections of existing towns. Hightstown is doing just that. They are turning a run-down, mostly-empty factory in the middle of an old town into approximately 80 single-family and condominium units. This is a blighted section of an otherwise nice, very small town that will in the future be reasonably-priced and -sized homes for people who need them.

A lose-lose situation is what’s happening in Pennsauken. Large sections of this South Jersey town are being ignored for redevelopment in favor of developing Petty's Island, a current brownfield with a nice view of Philadelphia. The large single-family houses, luxury condos and golf course proposed for there are of a size and price out of the reach of most of the residents of this large town and will not help the housing crisis in the town or state in the slightest.

We need to reign in our open-space development in New Jersey. It is too easy for towns to ignore areas that could be RE-developed and just destroy farm fields in the name of increasing ratables (while ignoring the fact that these new sprawl developments will need more in services than their taxes allow.) We need smarter growth in Our Fair State.

In the spirit of "Not Complaining Without Proposing A Solution," I suggest you, fans and friends, get involved. Go to your town planning board meetings, especially if you rent and would like to buy there someday. Write your legislators (mine write back quickly!) and talk to your neighbors. Watch The Race for Open Space , if NJN rebroadcasts it, to get a more in-depth analysis of sprawl issues. Realize nothing will ever change until we all get involved and make Our Fair State a bit more fair.

And please, when you move, clean your own lousy toothpaste out of your medicine cabinet.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My Pillows Are In The Freezer

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This...guest post courtesy of Catherine

Warning: This is a gross story that could cause sleeplessness. Don't say I didn't warn you.

There was an article in last Sunday's paper about pillows, and how some people become so attached to their pillow that they can't sleep without it. There was this 45 year old man who still slept with the same pillow he had used in his childhood. Before he got married, he told his wife that she could never get rid of that pillow. When he traveled for business, he took his pillow with him. Frankly, I thought this was not only extreme, but ridiculous. Plus I wondered why anybody would bother to write an article about something so stupid. And then why the paper would feature it as the cover story in the Home section, with a big graphic of a pillow.

But I kept reading anyway. And here's where the trouble began. The author then explained what the problems were with keeping the same pillow and why you should change it frequently. The paraphrase is something like this: "Your pillow is, in fact, the dirtiest place in your house. It is filled with dust mites that reproduce on a daily basis. That's why it's important to buy new pillows, and to wrap them in a hypo allergenic cover. If you are so attached to your pillow that you can't part with it, the only other thing you can do is put the pillow in the freezer. This will freeze the dust mites, interrupt the food chain, and prevent their reproduction."

WHAT???? That's what's going on in my pillow??? My mind was then obsessed by this vision of a high school biology movie, with a zoomed in version of all these disgusting, multi-legged little dust mites crawling around inside my pillow, fighting for scraps of 'food', like the ants you can watch in the summertime carrying crumbs on their backs from a picnic site.

Then I started thinking about the 'food', which isn't really food, of course, it's really me. Or microscopic pieces of me. And the whole thing was just grossing me out. I tried to forget about it by reading some other stupid articles in the paper about how J Lo had decorated her house. Except I couldn't really get it out of my mind. I wondered if J Lo had dust mites in her pillows, and if the dust mites realized how lucky they were because they were eating J Lo skin particles.

Now, this article was in last Sunday's paper. I have not been able to sleep well ever since. When I get into bed to get all snuggled and comfortable, I think about my head on my pillow. And then I start thinking about those dust mites, and then I can't sleep. Well, I eventually do sleep, but then I wake up in the middle of the night with a stuffy nose. And I wonder if my nose is stuffy because of those damn dust mites. Are they up my nose? And then I can't sleep.

So this morning, I had reached my limit with this ridiculous obsession about these damn dust mites. This was it; I was declaring war. I carried the pillows downstairs to the upright freezer. (Yes, Jagman, if you are reading this, your pillow is in the freezer. It's been in there for four hours.)

Now, I don't really know how long they are supposed to stay in the freezer, or what condition they will be in when I remove them. Will they be frozen? Will they have to thaw out? Will they be wet once they thaw out?

I don't know. All I know is that I had to stop the food chain for the reproduction of those dust mites so I can sleep through the night tonight.

I feel sorry for that 45 year old man featured in the article. He's probably in therapy now after reading the printed version of the story. Can you imagine? He's interviewed about how much he loves his pillow and thinks it's going to be this warm & fuzzy story about people's pillows and blankies, and instead, now he's haunted by dust mite nightmares. Now he can't sleep with his pillow or without it. I bet he freezes his pillow too!
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "Here's Looking At You, Kid"

There are classic movies. But better yet, there are classic lines from classic movies. What is your most favoritest classic movie line ever uttered and why?

P.S.- By request, my favorite movie line is probably one from Can't Buy Me Love:
"Cools, nerds, your side, my it's all bullshit. It's just tough enough to be yourself."
Monday, September 19, 2005


And the guest posts just keep on comin'. Here's one on a subject that is near and dear to my heart, courtesy of fellow teacher, Fred.

One of the things about working in the teaching profession is that you achieve tenure after a certain period of time (three years here in my district). Tenure, which is foreign to those of you in the corporate world, generally means you have achieved a position that is difficult to eliminate, unless you completely mess up. Examples of messing up? How about striking a student, or even something as disgusting as carrying on an affair with a student?

To stay below the radar and glide into this tenure thing without any issues, teachers may sometimes behave in a manner opposite of their normal reaction. You want to say one thing, but you reconsider, remember you're not tenured, then say another.

A few examples of non-tenured thinking and non-tenured responses:

1. Can you cover my class? Are you serious? I've got papers to grade. No problem, I can grade my papers in your class.
2. Can you stay late for a quickie staff meeting? You mean, another waste of time due to your lack of planning? I'd love to.
3. Can you sponsor another club for us? What about the other 80 teachers who don't have a club and are too lazy? I'm sure I can squeeze it in, thanks for asking.
4. Can I borrow your lesson plan on that subject?You've been teaching this subject for three years, can't you come up with one yourself? If it will help the students, that's OK with me.
5. How'd you like to go to the cafeteria with me? Are you kidding? You're a complete bore. Sure, let's talk about the upcoming finals.
6. Do you want to serve on the planning committee? What a waste of time - it's already pre-determined by the bureaucrats. Wow - what a great opportunity - thanks!

Non-tenure (or probationary period in the corporate world) - does it make a difference in the way you act?
Friday, September 16, 2005

Don't Know Much About Geography

For awhile I avoided writing about this. At first this was because I didn't know there was anything to say. Then it was because I didn't know what to say, especially considering I seem to have said most of it all before. Now I decided to go the "noble" route by letting everyone know just how out of touch I can get sometimes when it comes down to it.

When Hurricane Katrina was about to hit I admit I was oblivious. Storms come and go all the time. Warnings are given frequently, often seen scrolling across the bottom of my favorite tv show. Since I'm being honest I'll go one more-I also probably didn't give a second thought to it because all I needed to know was that it wasn't happening here.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit and while I knew there was damage, I still didn't know quite how severe it all had been. Again I attribute this to my desire to avoid straight news programs at all costs. This isn't because I'm ignorant, it's because watching the news for long intervals makes me too damn depressed.

So imagine my surprise when in passing a few days later I overheard that New Orleans was all but gone, at least for the time being. I, like many of you, was in shock, albeit a little delayed. I felt sad for those people. I felt scared for the world. But most immediately, I felt embarrassed that I hadn't been paying attention sooner.

Suddenly an event that seemed miles away hit close to home. Just like the water rushing in from the collapsed levees, the repercussions of such devastation began to permeate other areas of life.

As silly as it might seem after I realized I didn't know of anyone that I know of being personally effected, I thought about my blogroll. I tried to do a quick scan in my mind of any of my fellow bloggers who might have been directly effected by this. As some of you may have seen, Bed of Thistles is one such blogger who commented on this blog about his safety and the welfare of others. I didn't even begin to think about those indirectly effected by it. It was all too much to digest.

Then I stated thinking about it from a teaching perspective. It occurred to me that it was just around this time last year that I was teaching a different batch of students all about the tsunami. If I had been teaching four years ago around this time I would have September 11th on my plate. The students, while engaged, are a bit distant from the whole thing and I wondered why. Then I realized that within their eight-year-old lives there have already been at least three major tragedies. So while in some ways this is very sad, what is even sadder is that this must seem like second nature to them since it's all they've ever known.

The next thing I realized is that I had to teach these children about what happened to the best of my knowledge. Remember I had just admitted to you to not knowing much about the events myself a few days earlier. So I read up. I gathered pictures together. I cried a bit, partly for my ignorance and feeling helpless, partly because I was scared for those people and feeling guilty that I was warm, safe and dry.

In my travels, I instantly realized something else- how little I knew about New Orleans. For example, I didn't know most of New Orleans was below sea level. I mean I knew it was surrounded by water, but I didn't realize much of the land actually existed below the water. Obviously, I have never been to New Orleans and in addition, don't get out much. Once I knew that to me it seemed like Russian Roulette to have been living there as long as some of those people did, especially since warning of bad hurricanes and levees in need of repair had been circling for some time. But then I thought about all the families with beautiful homes on the Jersey shore that love their piece of real estate and wouldn't trade it for the world. Some people would just rather take that chance than in their eyes, take the worse alternative- not have a chance at the life they want at all.

Once I did some research I found that teaching my students about the hurricane was much easier than I had initially anticipated. Much of the lesson was guided by their questions and concerns. There was also the added "bonus" of our school being on the water so that put things into perspective for them.

As the water continues to fill the town of New Orleans, the problem continues to overflow, causing a different kind of ripple effect. Last week the town where I work announced they would be taking 100 families from New Orleans. Due to overcrowding at the high school level, most of these familes are slated to be screened for elementary or middle school students. Rough estimates are all we were given at this point considering the familes haven't arrived yet. What we do know, however, is that all of the students will be split up amongst the elementary schools accordingly. As of next week nothing could change, or I could have 1, 2 or more students in my room from that area. Students that are coming to a town that has very little with even less, if you can imagine that.

Within a few short weeks a problem that didn't exist in anyone's mind, went from a problem that didn't exist in my mind to a "problem" that could be mine as early as the end of this week. In addition to help possibly educate these students I also plan to give something to someone, I just haven't decided where or when yet.

In short, the lesson is simple- don't ever not pay attention just because you think something doesn't concern you. Don't turn away. Because this time it's them. But it could just as easily be any one of us tomorrow.

For a lighter look on all water related weather woes, read this reheated post.
Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stationery Queen, age 13, part 1

Stationery Queen has the following to say, so listen up:

Janet has graciously let me be a guest blogger here at AOGB. And so, I give you one of my favorite posts from my site, Staples and Paper Clips.

With all my supplies laid out in front of me, I was ready to begin my assault:
1,000 labels in a variety of rainbow colors
1 blue Bic Stic pen
25 3x5 white post office-issued postcards, with postage already
Scotch tape
I carefully wrote the address to the recipient on the front of each card, then turned it over. Lick, lick, lick, 25 times, the pink, blue, yellow and white labels with my name and address. I secured them with tape, just in case the lick 'n' stick failed. I wrote my telephone number underneath and decorated around the labels with markers and
squiggly lines- anything to stand out: "#1 Fan"... "Please pick me!"
"I have to get more cards," I said out loud. "Daaaaaaaaaddy... Can you stop at the post office today?"
He did.
And I wrote 50 more. Those tickets would be mine. My first concert ever.
Me, 2,000 of my closest friends, and the best band of all time.
Rob, Eric, Andy, David and John. The Hooters.

For weeks, the DJs picked a name, every hour on the hour.
For weeks, it wasn't mine.

Then one day, while busying myself in my room, as much as one could with a boom box attached to her head waiting for her name to be called, the unthinkable happened. They called my name. "Stationery Queen of Philadelphia, you have 9.8 minutes to call to claim your Hooters/98 CRAP-FM anniversary party tickets."

I picked up the phone with my shaky right hand. My 15-year-old brother was wooing his latest conquest. "J., get off the phone!" I screamed in his ear. "They called my name on the radio and I MUST CALL." Unlike his usual tortuous brotherly behavior, he obliged, quickly, and I began to dial.

"98 CRAP-FM," a voice said when the ringing stopped.
"This is Stationery Queen," I said, panting into the phone. "You just called my name."
"OK, Stationery Queen, tell us your name and address and telephone number," the deep, booming radio voice said.
For a split second, I drew a blank. Where do I live? What's my name
even? OK. Breathe.
I rattled off the information.
"Congratulations. You just won two tickets to see The Hooters on November 4!"
"YAAAAAAY!" I screamed and started jumping up and down.
"Wait!" he said. "Get excited in a minute. I have to tape this to play on the air."
I waited.

The booming voice became a caricature of itself, kind of like Jimmy Fallon's radio "And we're baaaaaack" guy on Saturday Night Live – nasally, his voice over-accentuated, fake.
"Hey, Stationery Queen, thanks for calling in. You've won two tickets to see The Hooters."
"Yaaaay!" I half-screamed and bounced up and down on my toes twice. Some moments just can't be recaptured.

After I hung up the phone, I screamed at the top of my lungs, to no one in particular, "I WON!!!!!" and did a happy dance. I flew down the two flights of steps to wait for my parents to return from the mall. I sat on the bench in our cement back yard, bouncing my legs up and down. I could not sit still. 75 postcards and a lot of happy thoughts was all it took to get me to my first concert of all time FOR FREE. I only got two tickets, and I had two best friends… Who on earth would I take?
Decisions, decisions.

MMc. was my bestest friend, but JB would really want to go. I grilled her on facts about the Hooters daily and just about beat her into submission and into acknowledging they were the best band of all time. Should I choose her for that? Or choose MMc because I knew her longer?

"Why don't you take your brother?" my mom said.
Ewwwww, I thought, and my look apparently said the same.
"Take J. and tell your friends that I made you," she said. "They can be mad at me."
I thought about her plan. It made sense. And J. could be fun when he wasn't pulling my hair or calling me names.
"OK," I said.
And I did.

J. took more than 100 pictures. I stood on my seat and had a ball for the two hours the band played.
And I danced, and danced and danced...

This message brought to you by an early morning DJ who played "And
We Danced" on the way to work.

Thanks, Janet, for letting me post my drivel for your readers. Happy
Fall everyone!!!
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Everything I Do, I Do It For You...and Me

Guest post alert! The never shy Monty has the floor today...

I was reading an interesting post a couple weeks ago at Genuine's, regarding the community of blogging and more specifically, Dooce. In the comment section I actually saw what he was saying take life...insofar as the dooce-lovers and dooce-haters.

***Don't get your panties in a wad, I'm not getting ready to do any dooce-bashing. Throttle back.

One thing in particular that I noticed was that the ones who love Heather are quick to jump to the fore with "I love her because she blogs for herself, not anyone else."
Really? Is that some kind of new concept?
It reminds me of a blog review that I read, wherein one of the reviewers said that it was refreshing to read a blog that the person wrote for themselves, not the audience.

So, I want to know...what's the distinction?

Who do you write for? For me? For everyone else but you?
I seriously don't understand that whole line of thinking.
Some people have to write. They need to do it. Some people consider it therapeutic (when I first started my LJ, I definitely fell into that category). Some people just have something to say, and this is their forum for saying it. Some people just have nothing better to do with their time.

So, who are they writing for again?

For me, it isn't about how many comments I get, numbers-wise. It's about the people who are leaving the comments. Those people who I can connect with, bond with, interact with. The feedback I get on whether I'm thought to be right or wrong. The support I get when I need encouragement. That's what it is about, for me.

So, who am I writing for again?

Let's face it, people~~I'm never going to have a readership in the thousands..and that's okay by me. That's never been a goal.
I'm never going to write something earth-shattering, something that will change the world, stop world hunger, or bring about world peace.
I simply share the flotsam and jetsam of my humdrum life, in hopes that you'll have a similar experience to relate.

In blogging for you, I'm blogging for me. If I make someone laugh so hard that they snort, or spew their coffee on the monitor, then I consider it a job well done. Because that makes me happy.
I blog about my life, my kids, my job, my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs...
So who else could I be blogging for, if not myself?
It's all about me.
I'm just sayin'.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "Two Guys Walk In To A Bar..."

You know what's reallly funny? I actually never find most jokes funny. You know classic jokes where there is a punchline and distinct point where you are supposed to laugh? I think real life situations and stories are much funnier.

That being said, I'm still going to give you a shot at the mic. Tell me a really funny joke. Go ahead, try and make me chuckle.
Monday, September 12, 2005

Psymphonic Psychotics Version 7.0

Guest post today brought to you by the letter L and the lovely Miss Dawn over at Tiny Voices In My Head.

A Psychotic Telephone Conversation Held on 8/4/05 at the Symphony Office in Which I Work:
*ring ring!*
Me: Symphony office, this is Dawn.
Psychotic: Yes, I was wondering why my mother isn't in your database anymore. I received my subscription brochure but she didn't. This is ridiculous. She gives your organization money every year and...
Me: What is her name? I'll see if she is in the database.
Psychotic: *gives her mother's name*
Me: She is in the database which means we did send her a brochure. Perhaps it got lost in the mail or she accidentally threw it away???
Psychotic: Well, that's not right because my mother gives your organization money every year!
Me: I'm sorry, I'll put another brochure in the mail to her today.
Psychotic: That is ridiculous that she is not in the database! She gives your organization money every year!
*At this point, I think she has a stutter.*
Me: Ma'am, she IS in the database. I can recite her address and phone number to prove it, if you'd like.
Psychotic: Has she given you money yet this year? She always gives you money.
Me: No, she has not so far this year.
Psychotic: Well, maybe she would if she were in the database and received a brochure!!!
I love my job. I tell myself that every day... :)
Friday, September 09, 2005

Excuse Me, But Can I Be A Jew For Awhile?

A few months ago I wrote all about how I was invited to my first Orthodox wedding. Many of you acted like Santa's reindeers, practically shouting out with glee at the idea of my attending this event and documenting it all with my digital camera, of course. So I decided, who am I to disappoint?

Truth be told, I honestly had no intention of going to this wedding. No offense to my friend, but I hadn't seen this girl in ages and it had been even longer than that since we had been anything resembling close. She's lived 20 minutes from me for years now so to drive much further than that to see her, but to not catch up with her, seemed quite pointless to me.

But another friend of mine went ahead and RSVP'ed yes before we could talk about it, so the good friend that I am decided I couldn't leave her in the lurch, so I begrudingly replied yes as well. Only immediately after doing so, we both grew to regret our decision.

For starters, there's the garb. As if finding something decent to wear to a wedding isn't trying enough, now I had the added pressure of finding something modest and chaste to wear. Butter churning attire, if you will. Now anyone who knows me knows I don't exactly dress like a hussy, so when someone as relatively conservatively dressed as I am looks through her closet and is STILL stumped, you know the requirements are strict.

We thought things were bad enough when we had to find long skirts and shirts that covered our elbows but then we emailed the bride for further clarification. Apparently the long skirt had to come past the knee and the shirt had to be above the collar bone. Oh and the sleeves had to be past the elbow, when sitting. Oh joy.

My goal was simple: If I had to buy something new to wear to this wedding you better believe I was going to purchase something I could get use out of again. So imagine my surprise when lo and behold Kohl's had the perfect long black skirt, and on sale to boot. I went home, put it on with a blouse I already had and I decided I had just the right dash of Little House On The Prairie.

Then I sat down.

The skirt I got has buttons up the front and, a rather large slit. When I stand up this is no big deal. When I sit down, however, the slit comes all the way up to my impure thought generating...knee.

At this point though, there was no going back. No I would just pin it, or suck it up and sit as still as possible until I got to a table that had a tablecloth to hide the shame and never, never get up from that table during the festivities, under any circumstances. My friend who I would be going to the wedding with had a similar philosophy. I mean we were trying to adhere to the rules as best as we could. What would they do? Kick us out?

When we got there I quickly realized two things: 1. my camera wasn't working (thus the lack of pictures at this time) and 2. there were people who definitely pushed the envelope more dressing wise than I did. The first problem was easy enough to solve...just get the pics from someone else. The attire was just something I had to ride out. These people who didn't adhere as closely to the rules were eager to to flock to (see below) as "Hey! We're All Non Jews!" companion pieces. Meanwhile I accepted the fact that I would just have to look like the lost keyboardist for Flock of Seagulls for one evening.

We went to greet the bride to be but realized the line was really long. Before we knew it, her sister had come to us and drawn us in for the picture you see above. Shortly after that we went into the ceremony. I'd like to tell you what happened during that ceremony, but I can't. This is because I could hardly hear anything and the little I did hear was mostly spoken in another language. It was interesting though to watch guests randomly sorta rise every so often. I thought they were trying in vain to start the wave. As it turns out it has something to do with paying the rabbi respect. I still like my theory better.

For as different as the experience of an Orthodox wedding can be, there was one big difference that I was down with. After the walking on broken glass segment and the enthusiastic cries of "Mazel Tov!", the bride and the groom are immediately swept away to have "some time alone" and to take pictures. I say "some time alone" because up until now, the man and the wife have not been intimate, at all. I'm including even the holding of hands here. In fact, they still might not have. I've heard rumors about needing an extra set of sheets on the night of the wedding (wink, wink, nudge nudge), but it's all speculation. Still, when helpful Jews come up to you and beg you to ask any questions you might have, something tells me that isn't the sort of thing they're talking about. It's just a hunch.

So anyway, while they are off doing...whatever it is they're doing, we're heading into the actual reception. There's no awkward time span between the church. No filling up on pigs in a blanket while waiting for the so-so food that badly needs to be nuked. It's one stop shopping my friends. All that seperates you from your salad is a partition and smile.

Another thing I had been warned about before attending this wedding was the food. Imagine my surprise when the warnings weren't true. First we had salad and then we had a choice of matzoh ball chicken soup or vegetable soup. I opted for the matzoh. No matter what happened after that, the inclusion of good soup anywhere, at anytime immediately improves the quality of any event, period.

While waiting for the bride and groom's arrival I took in the sights. I would like to include more of them here, but the pictures, although I have them, are not cooperating. The tables themselves were a bit unusual. There was no open bar, but with it there's no chance of your Aunt Gertrude getting shit faced and telling Uncle Harry off. Instead there was actual liters of drinks at the table, sans pitchers. The choices themselves were equally random: Diet Coke, seltzer water, Fresca, and a lone bottle of wine. All of us Unorthies eyed up that bottle of wine, but we did have some sense of decorum. So we waited to crack it open till the arrival of the happy couple.

Some weddings are full of tension so thick, you can cut it with a knife. Fortunately, this wedding was full of a big wall that neatly replaced all that tension. As rumored, men were to mix on one side of the wall while women were to mingle on the other. There were ladders on each side. At first we wondered why. Then we realized that the camera crew needed access to both sides. We wondered if men would be able to watch the women's video and vice versa and if so, what was the point of the wall anyhow? I halfway expected The Scorpion's "Wind of Change" to start playing as the wall started to "move" throughout the night. We thought we were so cool to make it past the wall, until, that is, we saw what was going down on the other side. Nothing.

After the soup was when the newlyweds arrived, albeit sold seperately. See in Orthodox weddings there is no traditional first dance, which ain't all bad considering this means there's also no danger of the latest God awful Shania tune surfacing anytime soon. But while Shania is absent, so is any mystery. The guests know what song is coming first and for that matter, second and third...because I believe it's always the same song. There's no Macarena. No Electric Slide, although I did see a Jewish dance that came pretty damn close to it. Not even a Hava Negila in the bunch if you can believe that! There's also no gag me with a spoon, cute traditions like the bouquet toss, the cutting of the cake or the sappy speeches. No it's just a bride and her posse, playing ring around the rosy. Seriously.

The bride comes out and everyone dances in a circle around her. And she dances in a circle in the middle, taking turns with different guests in her inner circle. Unfortunately even the non Jews were not exempt from this. Ashes, to ashes we all almost fell down...well not really, but damn it's easy to get dizzy doing that. It reminded me of the time I was a kid and turned to every single mention of a turn in The Byrds hit "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Let's just say I wouldn't try it at home.

After running around in circles grew a little tiresome, the bride jump roped for a little bit (I've got proof) before finally sitting down as it was her turn to be entertained by her guests. Immediately I had flashbacks to childhood block parties where as kids, we would put together seemingly random skits that in our mind, looked much more put together than they actually were. But in between the random entertainment, there was gong show like entertainment. There were clowns and even a juggler, I shit you not. No fire breathing though. I know. I was disappointed too.

Finally the dancing stopped and the bride was carried back to her table which rested on the equator of the men and women's sides- behind a plant. We also returned to our respective tables as dinner was being served. Once again, the main course was a pleasant surprise. We had our choice between breaded chicken or stuffed chicken. We tried to ask what the chicken was stuffed with but got nowhere. My guess was it was stuffed with breading, which actually wasn't far from the truth. Throughout the event I was taken aback by how friendly the Orthos were to us random non Orthos. We were dressed similarly, but the old school Orthos knew we were moles. We wondered what about us tipped them off. Perhaps it was the snickering and the constant snapping of pictures of random things like the long bearded gentleman at the make your own sundae bar.

As the even winded down I realized that I had just achieved one more thing that I could cross off my list of things to do before I die: Attend an Orthodox Jewish wedding. Ok, so maybe that wasn't really on my list. But it would have been- had I made a list in the first place.

In closing, I'd like to say Mazel Tov! to the happy couple, because I'm cultured now and I hear that's what you're supposed to say.

Now if only I could say I actually met the groom...
Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Gotta P

I couldn't have said it better myself. Guest post courtesy of the thought-provoking Tommy over at Striving For Average.

When you enter the music business one of the most important things is getting your name, the branding and all the marketing right so albums will sell. Sales, that's what it's all about, I'm not sure Sean Combs is the right kind of name you know, we probably need to jazz it up some. Your ever considered Puffy? That would be a good name don't you think Puffy Combs.

I gotta P.

Not now. I think Puffy might not really be what we need, how about we change it to Puff Daddy? That should work don't you think. I like it. Puff Daddy. It has a solid ring to it.

I gotta P.

Hear that, he has to have a P. Why didn't you mention it before that you had to have a P. It's a little late now to do anything about it.

I did tell you. I said I gotta P.

Do you realize how far we've gone. There is no way we can stop just because you have to have a P.

I gotta P.

OK, alright, you can have a P. How about P Diddy? Will that work. Can we get back to what we were doing before you decided you had to have a P?

P Diddy?

Yes P Diddy. You said you had to have a P and now your are gonna have a P. So be quiet about it.

I don't wanna P.

You are having a P and that is the end of it.

But I don't wanna P.

You are gonna have a P. End of story.

I don't gotta P.


I don't gotta P.

OK fine you don't gotta P. But I don't ever want to hear this I gotta P crap from you ever again. Next time you make up your mind first if you gotta P or not and if you gotta P then go ahead and have a P but do it on your own time and leave me out of it. Understand?

I'm not ever gonna wanna P again. Ever.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Too Cool For School

Has anyone been watching Tommy Lee Goes to College? Damn you Tommy Lee! You made me love you. I didn't wanna do it. I didn't wanna do it.

The premise is simple; kid at heart, bad boy rocker Tommy Lee makes good by going to college. Watch as Tommy Lee enrolls in complicated classes like Intro to Chemistry and Engineering. See him go through the struggles of finding that perfect roommate and waking up on time. Laugh with Tommy as he gets a tutor, young enough to be his daughter, but hot enough to be...his daughter.

Then the awful truth came crashing down around me.

In a Yahoo article on the show:

"Tommy Lee Goes to College finds its titular 42-year-old rocker sort-of attending the University of Nebraska (he didn't really enroll) for the purposes of a sort-of realistic view of campus life (more than a few of the bits are staged)."

Immediately a few choice words popped out at me, from "He didn't really enroll" to "staged". As a result, I had a few choice words of my own, "What the %$!?"

Here's the thing. I completely understand that much of reality television is based around implausible premises. I even fully expected a degree of Tommy Lee Goes To College to be fabricated. But part of the fabrication is his actual enrollment? Why not just call it Tommy Lee Visits College and call it a day?

I'm not naive. I didn't expect Tommy to graduate or even attend past the semester, but I think it would have actually been funnier to see Tommy really have a go at it. Instead we get a bunch of offbeat moments that make Tommy Lee seem, dare I say, charming and innocent. Don't laugh, they did.

Now I'm left to wonder. How much of it was real at all? Now that I know he didn't enroll, I'm assuming he didn't really stay on campus or even possibly really try out for the band and mess it all up, only to be triumphant in the end. It's all just too much to take.

I'm no fool. I know reality tv isn't perfect. But in the future, I'd like my reality tv with at least a side order of reality. Is that too much to ask?
Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "One To Grow On"

Does anyone remember those commercials from the eighties they used to play sandwiched in between cartoons like The Smurfs and Jem? They were like mini-afterschool specials for the brain, a lot like the more mature, "The More You Know" campaign NBC runs these days.

The premise was simple: they would gently remind you of one of life's little lessons such as stay in school or don't do drugs.

So my question to you is this, what is the most vaulable life lesson you have learned so far?
Monday, September 05, 2005

The Most Unfair Two Minutes of Your Day

And now for something completely different, I present to you a somewhat controversial guest post courtesy of The Xpatriated Texan:

The first two minutes of every hour you, and every American who has a job, work is dedicated to one specific government program-Medicare. If you are self-employed, you pay the equivalent of four minutes of every hour for Medicare tax. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics that means one hundred forty million people will pay three percent of every penny they make to make sure that Medicare has enough money to provide health care for the aged, disabled, and dependent. Even setting aside the fact that Congress has decided to cut ten billion dollars over the next four years, Medicare still qualifies as the most unfair tax paid by many Americans.

It is unfair because about three and a half million self-employed persons and well over fifteen million employees do not have health insurance for themselves. Yet every week, these employees donate an hour and twenty minutes of their pay to providing someone else with insurance. What could be more unfair than to ask someone to give up money they desperately need to provide a benefit they don't receive themselves to someone they don't even know?

Don't for a minute think that it is only part-timers or teens working after school, either. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a statistical report this week that debunks that favorite Republican myth. In Texas, up to a third of all employees do not have health benefits. Almost a fifth of the states have more than a fifth of their employees that are ineligible for benefits. Somehow, I don't think there are that many kids working after school. If there are that many part-time workers; then our economy is seriously about to crumble.

Let's not forget the kids, though. In more states than not, employees with kids but without insurance outnumber employees with kids and insurance. That puts a strain on the states' Medicaid program-which provides insurance to poor children. That, in turn, puts a strain on the states' budgets. That would normally mean that state governments take higher taxes from their citizens- but everyone knows that all taxes are evil. So, what it really means is that money that should go to education and other vital programs are short-changed. In other words, the pain gets spread around further, but not necessarily any thinner.

What makes it even more unfair is that it is totally unnecessary. The federal government already runs a program that would alleviate this problem. It's the very same program these people are already paying taxes for but are barred from participating in. It's Medicare. Medicare B is an HMO-like program where recipients pay a small monthly participation fee-currently around fifty dollars a month. The government matches this at a rate of three to one to provide health insurance. For those that don't like "big gubment" running their lives, Medicare C offers buy-in to privately run HMOs for slightly higher costs.

If Medicare B were open for buy-in at full cost (paying all four dollars instead of just one); then a completely portable and cost-efficient basic medical coverage would be available to every American. If this were enacted in conjunction with a one dollar an hour minimum wage hike, plus a tax incentive of equal value to small employers, the cost would be fully recovered by both employer and employee. It still wouldn't cover the cost of prescription medicines or hospitalization, but it would be a step in the right direction. If existing insurance companies were allowed to compete through Medicare C; then competition will still work to keep costs down.

More workers covered, small businesses better able to provide benefits (which results in fewer missed work days and less job turnover), and more money flowing into Medicare. Someone please tell me where there is a downside to this!

Rather than tearing Medicare apart, what needs to be done is to expand it. Insurance works best when very large groups exist to defray average costs. What group can possibly be bigger than the entire population of the United States? (Okay- technically, the world's population, but that is beyond the scope of this discussion.) Another aspect of Medicare B is that it automatically adjusts the monthly premiums to be revenue neutral. That means that as more people enter the insured group, driving down the average cost of insuring each one, individuals are rewarded by paying a lower monthly fee. Wow! We can actually maintain benefits and lower the out-of-pocket expenses for seniors.

It isn't wrong to stand up for those who are striving to make their lives better. In fact, it is morally reprehensible to kick them in the teeth by refusing to allow them a means to take care of them selves and their families. Medicare B is not a perfect plan. It does, however, take the injustice out of the first two minutes of every hour fifteen million Americans will work today.
Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who's Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?

Yesterday when I got into my car I saw the gas tank was at about the halfway mark. Ever since I can remember I've had it beaten into my head that is better to have a gas tank closer to full than empty, not unlike your stomach. Knowing this, I made a mental note to get gas on the way home as I didn't want to stop right then.

While driving on the highway I noticed the price of the gas stations along the way. The first one I saw, an Exxon, had regular gas for $2.59. A month ago that would have been highway robbery. A few weeks ago it would be, to borrow a phrase from American Idol judge Randy Jackson, aight.This week, however, it's some kind of wonderful.

I'll admit it. Since I haven't been working, I don't always leave my house every single day and even when I do leave, I don't always drive along a road where I pass many gas stations. Unfortunately for me, not only do I not get out, I also, apparently must live under a rock considering I had no idea Katrina and her waves were responsible for all of this. So imagine my surprise when less than a mile away there was another gas station, for about 20 cents more than the first one.

And it only got worse from there. As I drove along the prices, if not comparable, were going higher and higher. I think I blinked and saw them change before my eyes. No whammies. No whammies. No whammies. STOP! I felt like someone had misplaced the regular gas stations with auctions, serving gas only to the highest bidder. $2.71? Do I hear $2.88? 2.88? Do I hear $2.90...$2.90...SOLD to the idiot with the Hummer!

Considering $2.59 was clearly the best deal in town, I journeyed the somewhat long way home to get gas on the way back. As I pulled into the station though, I realized everyone else had the same idea.

Now I know all you naysayers have a grand ol' time making fun of Jersey, but I will tell you one great thing about the garden state: in Jersey we still don't have to pump our own gas, so there. But as I journeyed around for a free pump, I eventually realized I was going to have to (gasp) get in line and wait to get gas.

I've grown quite accustomed to waiting on line for tons of things. I go to Target, I wait on line. When I had to register for college classes, I waited on line. Even when doing something unpleasant like renewing your license, you wait and you wait and and you wait some more. But this waiting to buy...gas? This was the sort of thing I had only heard about when the elders would tell there "back in my day" stories. Suddenly I was one of them. I even shudder to think about it.

As I was waiting I popped the tank and shut off the motor. That was when the gas attendant came up to me and said "I see that you're waiting and just so you know we don't have any regular or plus...only super."

And visions of buying gas for $2.59 suddenly danced...right out of my head.

At this point I was down, but not out. I decided to go to another gas station a few miles away. When I get there the price was $2.71. At this point I feel defeated and deflated because inflation, not unlike Britney Spears, was saying, oops I did it again. I tried to cheer myself up. $2.71 ain't so bad. I've seen far worse in my travels. And then the man soon to be billed as gas attendant #2 in the story of my life breaks the bad news, in bad English I might add. "No regular."

Now I was pissed. Not only am I pissed, I'm a bit paranoid. I knew I shouldn't have watched The Day After Tomorrow the other day. I mean the title alone speaks volumes. Those apocalyptic type films about armageddon and the end of the world really mess with a girl's head. Suddenly I had the ominous movie trailer words In a world...pop into my head, along with images of Dennis Quaid and Morgan Freeman personally delivering gas to my town.

At this point I just wanted gas on principle. So I went to the last two gas stations within a five mile radius. Here came the tricky part. If I went with door #2, the gas station further on down the road that I usually went to, I risked the price being higher and having to make a uturn. But if I had gone with door #1, and then saw door #2 was indeed lower, I'd be kicking myself for not knowing.

I couldn't take the torture any longer. I pulled into the first gas station rationalizing that they very well might be out of gas anyway and the decision would be made for me. That's when I saw the price, $2.99. As soon as I saw this I knew the awful, awful truth. They were going to have gas my friends, and lots of it.

When gas attendant #3 approached my window, I got smart. Instead of just asking for gas, I asked if they HAD gas. The man looked at me like I was crazy. I think he was thinking this IS a gas station lady, but if he was, he held it all inside, sort've. So begrudingly, I told him to fill er' up.

As I finally made the long drive of shame home I passed that last gas station. I held my breath as I came closer and closer to the sign. When I got there I finally saw the numbers...$3.09. Ha! Ha! Suckers!

But of course what post is complete without a dash of irony? I got my gas alright, and for a relatively cheap price. However I had to drive around, using precious gas to get...gas.

Now I just feel empty... inside.



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