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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Big Brother is Watching. Get Over It.

A lot of people seem to be all up in arms about privacy and how we don’t have it anymore. It seems like almost every day, I’m alerted to the fact that Facebook is stealing my  info/identity/photos/soul and using them for evil and profit.

I don’t care much. I know, I know, I am just like my son, Jack, who blogged recently that he’s not bothered by the revelation that he is being tracked by his own iPhone. He posted a map of all the places he’s been in the past year, carefully pinned by Apple, and he said he doesn’t mind that his privacy is being stormed by a corporate giant, or that everyone now knows he got lost looking for the oral surgeon’s office last winter and, according to the map, drove like a drunken fly all over south Florida. He was taken to task by an online commenter who was extremely upset that Jack was not more upset about Big Brother. He called my son a liberal Nazi. (I’m not even sure what that means, but I don’t think he meant those two things cancel each other out.)

I love when people get mad about other people not getting mad enough. If I’m speeding up my own death because of worry and anger, it’s not fair that you aren’t, too!

What’s to be upset about? If Apple wants to track me back and forth to the grocery store and Panera, have at it, media giant. And don’t tell me there’s a larger issue here, one of privacy and freedom and individual rights. I know that. Don’t think I don’t know that.

People who freak out about their email addresses being posted on Facebook remind me of this guy who used to show up at public meetings in the ‘80s in Ohio. He was a budding conspiracy theorist who was forever getting up at public forums and yelling that the government was taking over our lives. During one hearing he claimed that enhanced 911 instant address notification was just a way for the “government to get our phone numbers.”

I think it was a county commissioner who said, “Uh, sir, the government already has your phone number. Shoot, I even have your phone number.”

I continue to be fascinated by how much The Man knows about me and that he even cares. I’m slightly flattered when an ad shows up on my Facebook page for something that I was just thinking of buying. Creepy, yes. But also useful.

And entertaining. Sometimes when I’m looking for a diversion between Facebook posts (don’t want people to think I have nothing better to do than update my status every 15 minutes) I look at the Google Analytics for this blog. Did you know that when you type in keywords into a search engine, it’s reported to the person who maintains the site where you eventually end up.

Because of The Man and non-governmental privacy invasion, I know that people have gotten to my blog using the following keywords:

  • bachelors beans barney and beany
  • can i bring a craft show tent to the infield at the kentucky derby
  • can you change it from “so and so just poked you” to something you wanna say?
  • cars disney snot rod christmas
  • chinese verson song i can still remember lyric
  • do starletts wear pantyhose anymore
  • does everyone have hair growing from corner of eye
  • does lexington legends games sell beer
  • how messy are normal peoples homes
  • leave it to beaver & outdoor grilling
  • le leche league militant bitches
  • mall easter bunny overheat
  • mammogram run car 10 humor list
  • man eat
  • movies putting on whalebone girtles
  • my husband likes my square dance dress
  • old ugly toenail picture
  • once you mentally get over a fear of flying, what is next
  • pictures of people with lots of toes
  • skype skype me grandma
  • what if you really have something to cry about?
  • what i’m wearing underneath my jeans is none of your business, mister
  • what wearing pantyhose means
  • what would be a reason for approaching a sharp curve slowly
  • where is michael caine that used to play on then came bronson
  • where is needle placed when nose is numbed to remove a wart
  • who block me

I actually have blogged about all these topics in one way or another, so they rightly ended up on my site. (Except for cars disney snot rod christmas. I have no idea where that came from.) Knowing what people searched for in the privacy of their own homes or offices, I feel like I’m eavesdropping on strangers.

I even the score by using my real name in my blog and not giving nicknames or false identities to my family. If you want to look up my phone number and find out how many times I went to Panera last month, knock yourself out. Call me if you want to. But don’t call me a liberal Nazi.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ladies, Start Your Engines

Years ago, in my past life as a SWF newspaper reporter, I was a racing fan. It doesn’t seem possible now, because I’d rather sit through a Head On commercial than to watch a single droning second of a car race. I guess it just goes to show you that people can change.

Racing dropped into my lap, much like hockey did years later, when we moved to New Jersey, right across the street from hockey star Joel Otto, and instantly became Flyers fans. Watching Ben and Kasey’s daddy beat the living crap out of guys on the ice until blood splattered up against the Plexiglass was the thing to do, so, yeah, we were hockey fans.

I became a racing fan when, as a reporter in Coshocton, Ohio, I was offered free tickets to Mid-Ohio race track by the sports editor. He handed me a press pass and said I could eat for free, drink all the free beer I wanted, and get into the winner’s circle, as long as I gave him a photo to run on Monday.

So, yeah, I was a racing fan.

And - bonus - the first time I went to Mid-Ohio, Paul Newman was racing. I snapped some photos of him. Also took some photos of Joanne Woodward, who was walking two little fluffy dogs outside a trailer.

I became a semi-regular there, along with my friends Helen and Steve. Helen, an ad rep who I worked with, was an actual racing fan, in that she knew some of the driver’s names who weren’t Paul Newman, and she could recognize their cars. Steve was Helen’s friend who, as far as I know, was independently wealthy and spent his days having lunch with Helen and me, and going to movies. Steve could always be counted on to come along to anything that anyone was doing. Anywhere.

Let me take a minute here and describe what it was like being a young, single working woman living in a town in rural southern Ohio. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Coshocton, a town known mainly for a canal that had been turned into an historical village. You could get a dulcimer repaired easier than you could get a martini. I spent a lot of my free time at the library. Thanks to my employer, I didn’t have a lot of hours in the day where I wasn’t working. The paper I worked for didn’t pay overtime, but gave us comp time when we covered meetings at night, but there never seemed to be a good day to take some time off. There was always something going on down at the canal that had to be covered, or the vo-tech kids were up to something newsworthy, plus the county fair was, at the most, 11 months away. When I left the paper, I think I had 620 hours of comp time built up.  So, heck yeah, I was a racing fan.

The actual races are kind of a blur. Other than following Paul Newman around, I don’t remember much. There was a lot of food in the press tent and some of it wasn't covered in flies. And there was keg after keg of beer. I think there were some cars, too. I always made sure I snapped a couple of pictures for the sports editor, so I could keep my sweet deal going.

As soon as I left Coshocton, I stopped going to races. Couldn’t even remember what kind of car Paul Newman drove (although I think it might have been a Datsun, weirdly . . . Can that be right?) Watching car races just wouldn’t be the same without the free food, beer, and movie stars in the middle of rural Ohio.
Sunday, May 15, 2011

Last Day of School, I Salute You

My daughter’s last day of school was this past week. Woop-de-freaking-do and I mean that in all sincerity. I’m not being sarcastic. I could not be happier. I just don’t use exclamation points much.

If you’re younger than me (and you know you probably are) and you have young children in school or you’re still popping them out, I know that you have your doubts that you’ll ever find yourself at your youngest child’s last day of school forever.

Well, trust me, you will. I hate to be one of those Just wait parents, but I’m telling you, Just wait. You’re gonna love it. I didn’t think I would ever be done helping with vocabulary word searches, covering books, signing permission slips, and having an arrhythmia when seeing School on the caller ID.

Not only will it happen, you won’t be as upset as you think. Is this the first time you’ve heard Empty Nest portrayed in such a glowing, rosy light? That’s because the other moms didn’t want you to know how cool it was. But I’m here to spill the beans. It rocks.

By the time you get to this point, you’ll have grown accustomed to closing out phases. The last bottle, the last diaper, the last bike training wheels, the switch from “Mommy” to “Mom” to “Hey, yo,” it’s all practice for the last day of school, when you can close out not only a chapter but a whole set of encyclopedias.

There was a time when the last day of school just for the year was worthy of a party. Our Last Day of School parties were fun and fabulous. We invited all the kids’ friends and all the neighbors and we let them run half naked through the sprinkler, use up all the sidewalk chalk and bubbles, eat all the candy they wanted, and spill chocolate milk all over their clothes. One year it rained and the kids all played in the front ditch, which had filled with filthy muddy water. It was a celebration of all things not-school. Once or twice we invited the kids’ teachers, and that’s when I learned that the last day of school is even more fun for teachers. They didn’t play in the mud, but some of them celebrated right into a designated driver for a ride home.

As a mom, I loved the last day of school, because I loved having my kids home with me. They were the funniest, most entertaining people I knew and when school was out, I got to spend the whole day with them for a couple months. Plus there were tons of things I didn’t have to do, and very little that I did have to do.

So right now, I’m enjoying this last last day of school feeling and celebrating that I will never again have to:

  • Wait impatiently for the school board to release the school calendar, which they dangle in front of you like methadone to an addict. Then transfer all the half-days, late start days, early dismissal days, and days off onto my calendar, including all the tentative make-up days for weather, holidays for religions that haven’t been invented yet, and block scheduling days when selected grades are feathered in and out according to a schedule that only Einstein and John Nash can understand.
  • Run around town like an escaped mental patient looking for materials to build the foreign language project. My kids always chose the ‘build a model’ project over any of the written or multi-media choices, because they knew I would make it my Christmas break mission to find the materials perfect for building a scale-model of Fuensaldana - complete with moat, horses and drawbridge - lightweight enough to get it into the school in one piece.
  • Check Edline, the online grade posting designed to keep parents in the loop. In actuality, Edline just makes parents wish they had remained childless. Many of my kids’ teachers didn’t report grades until it was too late to do anything about them; the ones who did keep up with their grades made mistakes or didn’t quite get the concept of grade reporting.  (One teacher entered all the future grades for the grading period and gave everyone zeros, explaining that she would give the points that they earned as the assignments came up. Starting out the year with an F- is enough to give a parent a small stroke.) Checking Edline never made you happy with your children; it only made you worry and want to ground them or trade them in for more studious kids.
  • Buy cheesecakes, cookie dough, frozen pizzas, $1 candy bars, magazine subscriptions, coupon booklets, Christmas ornaments and other crap I don’t have room for. I was always happy to buy school fundraiser stuff, but I’ll be happier to not buy school fundraiser stuff.

I know this makes me sound like I didn’t like being the mom of school-age kids. I did, really. There were good parts - more than the bad parts even - that I will miss terribly.

But the last last day of school is another reason for a party and I’ve got a ditch that’s filling with rain, so life goes on.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I have one more day of high school until I’m done forever. That is to say, my child has one more day of high school, but I’m more excited about this than all of the seniors put together. I would do the Last Day of School Dance of Joy but I have a bad hip.

I’d like to say that it’s bittersweet and I’ll miss it, but the fact is, if I never again have to be in the high school parking lot at arrival or dismissal time, I’ll be a better person. Being in that parking lot has actually screwed up my relationship with Jesus, because of the mean thoughts I formulate about teenagers who won’t move their Size 0 asses out of the way of my car. The longer they take to move out of my way, the more horrible my thoughts of their morals, their futures and their hair.

“Don’t beep, Mom.”

“I’m gonna beep. I swear to god, I’m gonna beep.”

“Mom. Don’t beep. Mom.”

“I’m gonna beep. I’m gonna beep . . .”

I’m too old for this. In addition to the bad hip, my patience levels are in the near-empty red zone. I’ve actually worked through the scenario where I hurt one of them and - I gotta tell you - the consequences aren’t that bad. I understand there are some accomplished authors teaching creative writing in women’s prisons now. It could be my big break.

So yesterday, there was a big front-page story in our paper about these drug busts at four local high schools, including ours. Dozens of kids, ranging from 15 to 18, were arrested on drug charges and how did they catch them? Undercover cops posing as high school students the entire school year.

A police academy graduate whose job it was to go to high school and hang out with the stoners for an entire year: This concept fascinates me to no end. I thought about almost nothing else yesterday. (I rough-scripted and cast an AMC drama about it and it’s Emmy-worthy, trust me, especially if I can get James Franco and Lindsay Lohan on board.) And then in today’s paper was a follow-up story where one of the narcs talks about it. What a great morning I had, reading this.

She said the hardest part was taking the FCAT test. “It was long, a really long test,” she said. Also, the cafeteria food sucks, she got a dress code violation for wearing a skirt that was too short, and she had to do homework. In between buying drugs and turning down offers to go to the prom, she had to go to classes every day, write English papers, and sit through the pep assemblies. I bet there’s a diorama in her locker right now.

When she goes to the police academy reunion picnic, and everyone’s telling war stories of being shot at, chasing down pimps, and working nights, she can tell about when her pencil broke during the language essay portion of the FCAT.

I think she and the other cop-fake-students deserve a medal. It’s commendable that as adults, they could go to high school every day and not slap everyone silly, especially the ones in the parking lot.
Monday, May 9, 2011

This Just In: Brooks Brothers' Mom Sends Them to Their Room to Change Clothes

Just when I thought I had run out of things to make fun of, my husband got a Brooks Brothers catalog.

He buys shirts and suits sometimes from Brooks Brothers. I’ve been in the store once, but couldn’t get past the front display: mannequin-torsos wearing pink and lavender suits. This store is not for me or anyone in my life, currently or in the future, I thought.

Last week, my husband ordered shirts from Brooks Brothers and the catalog came in the box.

What the hell, Brooks Brothers? I know you’re the spokesmodel for preppy (which is now called ivy style, just in case you were wondering), but your models are high school and college age; you can’t possibly think that anyone under 60 would show up in public wearing this: 

And I’m talking about the boy. The women’s clothes in the Brooks Brothers catalog are perfectly fine. Apparently, women are encouraged to stay classy but still keep up with the times. Guys, I’m sorry to report that you have to wear Truman Capote’s bow ties and jackets that are two sizes too small for you.

What’s more preppy than a popped collar? A popped collar that’s stamped with the year your favorite clothing company started doing business.

I had a skirt made out of this patchwork material. In 1966. When I was 8. And a girl. Oh, and hey, that’s my bike.

Nothing says My dad has oodles of disposable income better than a jaunty sweater ($145), a hastily tied bow tie ($65, but it’s reversible!), and a pair of “playful hula girl embroidered shorts” ($89.50). And a mint condition boat.

I think the brother might just get into the country club in this disguise. Why else would he be wearing it?

This catalog got me to thinking: Has Brooks Brothers always been this way? So I went looking for old Brooks Brothers catalog shots.

I found this one from 1979:

The multi-colored paneled pants might be a tad hum-drum, but on the shirt, you can sport the Brooks Brothers’ logo, a sheep being hoisted up by a giant ribbon.

And then I found these two gems:

Well, shoot, I have a pair of cropped pants in a similar pattern that I actually wore up until five minutes ago. Now that I’ve seen them with saddle shoes, it won’t be the same.

Ringmaster meets English-school-boy meets every-dork-who-ever-got-his-ass-kicked-after-school.

I don’t know what year it’s from, but this one features the popular “wool flannel fun pants.” That’s fun as in people will be making fun of you.

This is the same sweater as worn by the guy in the boat, but Clark Kent here had the foresight to  pair it up with the pink playful whale fun pants.

I hear that the first Brooks Brothers Catalog came out before 1920, but I couldn’t find anything that far back. I did find this one, though, from 1939. 
Those three shirts look just like the ones my husband just got. Does that mean that in 70 years, normal guys will be wearing pink pants and bow ties?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twitter, Go to the Head of the Class

I’m glad to see that Twitter got some love this week. It wasn’t looking good, when it was announced that the royal wedding would not be live-Tweeted and that an actor in the Facebook movie The Social Network, Armie Hammer’s grandfather personally knew Prince Charles.

Facebook 1   Twitter 0

But then Osama bin Laden got whacked and Twitter got pushed to the front of the social network line, thanks to a neighbor guy who was up late, bored out of his skull, and itching to use his fly-swatter references.

Facebook 1   Twitter Infinity

I’m happy for Twitter, but I’m still not a huge fan. I don’t like #s and RTs and I only barely tolerate @s. Plus Twitter is based solely on mutual back-scratching: Unless you’re famous and funny, no one really reads your tweets. They only follow you so that you’ll follow them. Everyone’s posting and counting followers and no one’s reading. I’d be kidding myself if I thought that PetGroomerie really gives a rat’s ass about me. He follows 1,328 people, a motley crew of personal trainers, singers, marketing execs and a self-proclaimed “guy with a desk.” And me. I’m going to have to tweet the next coming of Jesus to stand out among his followees.

Isn’t it funny that the guy who accidentally Tweeted the raid on Osama bin Laden’s house, Sohaib Athar, now has 102,916 followers? (Woop, just checked again and it’s now up to 103,391.) The raid only took 40 minutes and now he just lives in a regular neighborhood with a mansion that is screwing with the property values. By the time we knew who we should be following, we were left with the scraps. Give him some credit, Athar is really scrambling to make it worth your while - Yesterday he posted a cell-phone photo of a rabbit with this comment: “A guy who used to live in la Den gave this bunny (two in fact) to a neighborhood kid.”

LinkedIn was watching from the sidelines and said, Hey, we can play at this game, too. We’re important! We’re relevant!  On today’s LinkedIn home page was this headline: WHOOPS: HP Exec Spills Huge Company Secret on LinkedIn Profile. But it was just something about cloud computing and block storage, which put me in a boredom coma before I was through the third paragraph. That’s just sad.

Facebook 1   Twitter Infinity   LinkedIn -3

And then there’s MySpace. Whoever took over for Tom appears to have had his headphones on while the world was being turned upside down. The MySpace home page features a photo of Will Ferrell kissing a man, Chris Brown, and Saoirse Ronan (Who? “She just nabbed the lead in a Stephanie Meyer’s [sic] movie.” OK, again, Who?) MySpace tells me to “get your dance on!” What’s Trending? Lindsay Lohan, Justin Beiber, Thor, and Conan O’Brien’s Beard. Breaker breaker, whoever runs MySpace, wake up and pick up a newspaper.

Facebook 1    Twitter Infinity    LinkedIn -3    MySpace ...Who?
Monday, May 2, 2011

Under the Influence of the Babysitter

It’s not easy raising worldly kids in white-bread Ohio. I stumbled upon a solution years ago, when I was raising my first child: Get babysitters who are very different culturally from your own Anglo background, and your kids will get a little multi-dimensional upbringing.

We hired Willie shortly after my son was born. She not only taught my son how to count to 13 (the number of steps in our house) and how to say yes instead of yeah and how to say May I please have some appa juice, but she also taught him some Youngstown-area-African-Americanisms that he used for years after Willie was gone.

“Scat!” is what Willie said when someone sneezed. Apparently, it’s a way of verbally chasing away germs and evil spirits. And it makes more sense than “God bless you,” which I always thought should be followed up with “you poor sap.” So “Scat!” is what my son said when someone sneezed.

Willie didn’t “live” at an address, she “stayed” at an address.

“Where do you stay?”

“I stay on McGuffey Road, on the East Side.”

That kind of thing.

So my son stayed on Youngstown-Pittsburgh Road, getting the maximum African-American upbringing from Willie until he was 2 and then he stayed on East 236th Street (or as he said, East Do Dirty Dick Street).

When we moved to East Do Dirty Dick in Cleveland, we had to find a new babysitter. I was advised to get him into a home-based Jewish daycare, because, as my Jewish advisers told me, “The Jews are the best at pushing kids to achieve to their limit while still spoiling them rotten.”

I was willing to look around for another African-American woman, but the Jewish thing sounded pretty good, too, so we started taking our son over to Dianne’s house, where he learned to eat kosher, spin a dreidel, and talk like a South African.

Dianne had her own child, red-haired Anna, and two wards, my son and Marc, a boy whose parents were from Capetown.

Marc was trouble. His mom or dad had to stay long after drop-off time because Marc didn’t want to stay at Dianne’s, and then when they went to pick him up, they had to stay for a few hours longer because Marc didn’t want to leave Dianne’s house. Marc needed a good swat, but that wasn’t for me to say, so as a result, my son spent about a third of his time at Dianne’s house with Marc’s parents, who taught him many South African pronunciations.

A battery was a batt’ry.

The fire department was the fahr brigade.

“Cool the fahr brigade! Cool the fahr brigade!” Marc’s dad screamed one day while I was sitting at Dianne’s kitchen table.

“What’s he saying?” Dianne muttered to me. We had gone to the front window and were watching Marc’s dad flail his arms. There was a tiny wisp of smoke coming from the hood of his car.

“I think he wants us to call the fire department,” I said.

There was always some kind of excitement going on, usually followed up by someone saying, “Oy vey,” sometimes my son.

Eventually, I quit working and didn’t need a sitter anymore, so it was more difficult to expose my children to ebonics and other cultural experiences. I had to seek out people of color at the library story hours, and learn some recipes from Betty Crocker’s International Cook Book. It’s not easy being a WASP and raising worldly kids. Sometimes you need to bring in an expert - the babysitter.

Related blog posts:
“My Jewish Roots”