Migratory Patterns

This blog is migrating to my new blog, “L.A. in L.A.”, when I eventually figure out how to do that. The parallel of course being that I am also migrating to L.A.

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The sky is falling

Perhaps it’s my affinity for Discovery Channel alarmist pseudoscientific docudramas affecting my perception, but I’m pretty sure the world is coming to an end. Or at the very least, having a cataclysmic episode of PMS. 

Supervolcano. 2012. The Day After Tomorrow. Armageddon. Deep Impact. Perfectly entertaining end-of-days films, but they all make the rather silly assumption that one single devastating event will ruin us. In reality, 2010 has seen a series of bizarre and terrifying goings-on around the world this year that my carefully tuned sense of paranoia has cobbled together to build a pretty strong case that the planet is really, really pissed right now. 

  1. Snow.

    North Capitol St. during round 2 (or 3?)

    It snowed like the frickin dickens on the East Coast this year. One BILLION feet between 20 and 40 inches of snow blanketed the Mid-Atlantic area in one weekend (Feb 5-6) this year, and blizzard conditions created drifts several feet high. I didn’t see my car, let alone drive it, for three weeks. I mean, Wikipedia has THREE ENTRIES for “North American Blizzard of 2010”! Because there were THREE BLIZZARDS just in 2010! To say nothing of the massive snowfall we got the weekend before Christmas, 2009. 

  2. It’s hot. Fortunately, it got really warm, really quickly after the snow stopped falling. I mean, it’s not like the Fenty Administration was going to be even remotely effective in clearing the roads in DC, so God smiled on us in the form of sunny 50-degree days starting in early March; we got to an average high temperature of 80 degrees weeks before even the first day of summer. Since, hardly a day has gone by without the mercury hitting 90 or higher.
  3. Thunderbumpers.  The warm temps across most of the United States yielded insanely gorgeous tree blossoms, foliage, and flowers, but they also create the perfect storm for, well, the perfect storm. Summer thunderstorms have always fascinated me: Violent systems blow through, sticking around for only a few minutes but causing untold damage. The smell of the air before a storm is foreboding, and the landscape after it’s gone stands vivid and resilient. But. I am terrified of lightning. My dog can’t handle the sound of thunder (which, actually is really cute because he gets all sadpuppyface and snuggles up under me for protection). I’ve had to wade through my fair share of flash floods, and lost my fair share of umbrellas to gale-force winds. And this season has been particularly destructive. Just two storms this week have felled thousands of trees, caused widespread power outages, and endangered the lives of at least seven people whose mother I had to reassure from my powerless position in front of a computer. But these storms are nothing compared to
  4. Hurricanes. NOAA expects a very active Atlantic hurricane season (June-November), with 12-20 named storms, including 8-12 hurricanes of which 4-6 could be major. Plus there’s La Niña, which I never understood. When I was a kid I thought Hurricane Hugo was King Kong, which perhaps you can imagine was wildly damaging to a 4-year-old’s perception of natural disasters. I’m over that now, and quite frankly I really want to chase hurricanes for the television news, but hurricanes tend to come at really inopportune times:
  5. Gulf Oil Spill.

    Most of that is oil.

    BP has evidently successfully fixed the problem, but it took them 87 days to get there. After throwing shit at the wall and seeing what stuck, BP finally figured out how to stop the damn thing from leaking (that, or the reservoir finally emptied, which… depressing). But not before 4.9 million barrels (which is one BILLION  some crazy high number of gallons) of crude spilled into the Gulf. There’s not much else to say about the spill that hasn’t already been said, except for that when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, it sure did distract us from 

  6. Eyjafjallajökull.

    This guy kicked some ash.

    Remember that? When a tiny part of the world exploded and choked the entire European continent? Airplanes were grounded from April 14-23, then again from May 4-5, and then AGAIN from May 16-17. His inability to get a flight home allowed Rolling Stone freelancer Michael Hastings extra time with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan, extra time that probably yielded extra damning quotes. Eyjafjallajökull therefore earned the nickname “THE DOOMBRINGER.” Actually, pretty sure that’s a direct translation from the original Icelandic. 

  7. Russia is burning down. And not in the ironic way either.
  8. Pakistan is drowning.
  9. So is Poland. Speaking of which,
  10. Waterworld. The polar ice caps are evidently actually melting now.
  11. Tiger’s losing his stripes. Perhaps it isn’t quite a natural disaster, but nevertheless, pretty indicative of a world changing not for the better. Yes, he’s a philandering asshole. But he’s still supposed to be the best golfer known to man. And this isn’t what usually happens to the best golfer ever.

    Tiger Woods dropped his club after playing his approach shot from the fairway on the 18th hole at Firestone.

    Losing his grip.

So. There’s probably more I’m forgetting, since I’ve thrown my hands up and screamed “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!” more times than I can count in the last 8 months, but I should probably keep my “Signs of Doom” list trim enough to fit on a sandwich board. But don’t expect me to wear aluminum foil on my head and prance around Times Square. It’s too damn hot.

Things they don’t teach you in school

wtf?

Does anyone really know what Permanent Press means? If so, could you kindly enlighten me?

Ten or so years ago I started doing my own laundry. More because I didn’t trust my mother not to shrink every item of clothes I owned (and this was around the time I started earning my own keep, so they were really MY clothes) than to be a responsible teenager, I learned through trial and error what could be washed together, what definitely shouldn’t go into the dryer, and when not to ignore the “dry clean only” tags. And I’ll tell you, even now as a “grownup” I still can’t figure this shit out.

I discovered the value of bleach one day after I spilled one too many shots of espresso on my white polo work shirts. I found out that dryer sheets really do get rid of static and sweater fuzz. And in the past few months I’ve realised the incredible value of the magic elixer that is fabric softener. At every juncture, I feel like I’ve had a mini-epiphany. But I’m left to wonder… why didn’t anyone ever just tell me how this stuff works?

The answer, I believe, is rooted in one of my long-standing criticisms of the Feminist Movement. We ladies of today have gained so much from the work of our mothers, aunts, crazy cat ladies who scream on the corner–the idea that a woman can walk into a brokerage firm (bad example… oil company), plop down her resume and college degree and get a powerful job. Ok, we still don’t get paid as much as men in general, with a few notable exceptions, but we have come a long way from the age when men would even let us drive a car, let alone run a Fortune 500 company.

Now that I’ve placated all the rabid feminazis, here’s my issue. My brother took home economics as part of his 6th grade arts rotation. He also took French, Latin, and Music, which suggests that enriching ones liberal arts knowledge does not exclude a practical education in how to run a home. I, however, took no such class. Everything I know about cooking and cleaning I picked up through osmosis, or learned from Martha Stewart (insider trading? whatever I LUVS YOU Martha!). But what I never understood is why I should be considered less of a strong, independent female for knowing how to roast a killer pork tenderloin. Would I look better wearing a crisply ironed shirt to work or a wrinkly mess?

I just can’t tolerate it when people take ignorance as a mark of pride. Why is it acceptable for a young woman to be all, “tee hee, I burned my microwave frozen dinner,” but turn her nose up at my ability to cook a whole Italian dinner from scratch?

This is why I’m writing a cookbook… eventually. I just wish someone would write a book about laundry. Thank God for Google.

Cute imploding on itself

This is like, through the looking glass of cute. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I write about ever, but I couldn’t not mention it.

Reason #93105 Summer Olympics>Winter Olympics

About a year ago, NBC added those little Olympic rings to its network bug. Maybe they never went away after 2008, who knows. Usually they’re translucent, but on rare and joyous occasions, they light up with the five colors of Olympic glory (that symbolize togetherness or competition or something). And that constant subliminal reminder that the Olympic games really shouldn’t ever be broadcast on anything but the National Broadcasting Company comes down to tonight’s spectacular Opening Ceremony… that’s being held indoors.

There’s nothing not to love about the Olympics. It happens so infrequently that clichés like the Super Bowl Party or World Cup Skivving Off Work For A Month To Watch A Sport Americans Can’t Even Pretend To Care About don’t hold water, and people can’t help but come together to root for their country and against whatever communists are hosting it. But the Winter Games are the bastard stepchild of that great athletic competition thought up by the ancient Greeks (who did nothing but think, when they weren’t waging war on each other).

I always loved the Winter Olympics. Snow capped mountains, figure skating, cereal tie-ins that let my brother and me send away for hockey sticks and proceed to ruin our parents’ living room–I didn’t realise these games were any less important or prestigious than their balmy-month counterparts, and wondered why newsmen started off their Olympic reports with how low the night’s broadcast rated. But it was that doubt, planted in my head during the 2002 games, that made me wonder whether the Winter Olympics really did matter. And the answer was, sadly, not really. Tonight, as I watch the Opening Ceremony, I’ll attempt to reflect on why.

First of all, it’s cold. Maybe it’s the 3 feet of snow I just lived through talking, but watching people be cold makes me cold. Sideline reporters, all be-parka’d and mittened, look like they hate their lives, and would give anything to kill Bob Costas and use his skin for warmth (or, conversely, be in  the studio with him, but that’s splitting hairs). I have the sympathetic chills, and that’s no fun.

It's an orange body condom.

And because it’s cold, everyone in the Winter Olympics is wearing a body condom. Even the figure skaters are wearing nylon mesh. Cos they’re skating on ice, and it’s effing cold. Summer Olympics feature shirtless men in pools and bikini-clad volleyball players on hot summer sand. They’re tan and sweaty and their struggle is raw and volatile. Winter athletes are windblown and red once they’re done flying down a mountain, and goggle lines are not a good look on the medal podium.

Winter sports require a tremendous amount of planning and money to participate. Truth be known, any kind of Olympic-level athlete has poured money and dedication into the pursuit of his goals, but there are far fewer barriers to entry into competition in the summer. A runner in Kenya needs only a long, flat path on which to run in order to become world-class, whereas a skier in Mexico needs access to a snow-capped mountain, money to afford the highest-caliber skis and equipment (and body condoms), and a desire to bolt down a mountain at 80 miles per hour. The Jamaican bobsledders made it work (or, didn’t), but when you watch the parade of nations, check out how many obscure island nations only have one poor schmoe representing them. Good luck, Cayman Islands.

Finally, it’s in Canada. We have to listen to the freaking Canadian anthem every freaking day. Sure, they’re our good-natured neighbors to the north, but they’re also our inconsequential neighbors to the north. They can’t even make it snow to host the games. Ninety-eight percent of Canada is an ice sheet, and the parts that aren’t are snow over permafrost. Watching the Olympic torch trace its route around such barren lands as Alert evoked a strong feeling of existential pointlessness that even a moderately more populated state, like maybe Algeria, wouldn’t. Canada is no China.

I do love the Olympics, really. Any kind of fortnight-long, every-four-years event makes that time feel special and different from any other in the year. We can compete with our global neighbors without banks or battlefields and learn about sports we wouldn’t even watch on ESPN Ocho on a normal day. But something about seeing such hot women athletes as Lindsey Vonn bundled up in a chunky cable knit turtleneck sweater and snow pants seems to lessen at least part of the appeal for watching otherwise unwatchable sports. I’ll watch, and I’ll try not to grumble through the whole 2 weeks. Go America.

Did I mention it’s cold?

UPDATE: Why is everyone a secret Canadian? Leonard Cohen? Joni Mitchell? If they were really proud of their Maple Leaf heritage, we’d know they were from there. Shania Twain, Alanis Morisette, Celine Dion–now those are proud Canadians. Bryan (Ryan?) Adams. But we forget that most people who are Canadian, are Canadian.

UPDATE 2: DONALD SUTHERLAND IS CANADIAN!?!?!?!

UPDATE 3: ARE WE EFFING SERIOUS?? MECHANICAL PROBLEMS?? China would have taken a sword through the torsos of every person responsible for this embarrassing as hell failure to launch.

Controversy, schmontroversy. She's hot. Go America.

I will never sneeze into my elbow

https://i0.wp.com/newsday.today.com/files/2009/09/artelmo_flu_gi_.jpgAt the risk of sounding like an old woman who yells at her TV, I offer this direct response to Kathleen Sebelius and Elmo, and everyone else who advises the public to do impractical and potentially dangerous things: I will never sneeze into my elbow.

Remember when we were kids, and, to our mothers’ horror, we would wipe our runny noses on our sleeves, from elbow all the way to wrist and sometimes fingertips if we were wearing gloves? It was after washing that umpteenth snot-encrusted sweater that mom thrust a box of Kleenex into our hands and taught us to blow our noses. Tissues go in the trash, where their nasty germ-filled contents are destined for a gruesome incinerated death. And that fact gives me comfort.

Advance 20 years. We live in an age of bird, swine, beef, ground lamb, and Cornish game hen flu, and it’s best not to spread that sort of thing around. As the Secretary of Health and Human Services, that wonderful catch-all department that’s supposed to be most in tune with the Public Interest but really only in the event of an epidemic, Kathleen Sebelius was charged with the responsibility to keep all those foreign animal influenzas from breaching our shores and mixing with our women infecting the American population. For the better part of 2009, this job consisted of holding regular press conferences to tell us just how fast the H1N1 was spreading, and when we should expect to have to start wearing surgical masks and burning anyone who coughed or scratched their nose. But when FLU SEASON started, Sebelius took it upon herself to re-teach all of America how to sneeze.

Evidently, we’d been doing it wrong (though those incorrigible folks who sneeze openly into the air to shoot their 45-mile-per-hour spit droplets onto everyone and everything around them always do it wrong). Rather than sneeze into our hands, then proceed directly to the sink to wash said hands or OCD apply hand sanitizer as a stop-gap, she told us to sneeze into our elbows. Sneeze all that grossness into our bare (gross) or beshirted (GROSS) elbows, then sit around with a wet spot on our arm until it dries and all the germs turn into spores and… sorry, I’m gagging.

I was horrified when I first heard this cockamamie advice, and promptly decided to ignore it. But today I was watching PBS (full disclosure, I enjoy watching Arthur and have ever since… well, high school), and there appeared some old guy and Elmo to feed this nonsense to children! They’re undermining mom’s stern guidance to instead teach kids to sneeze onto their clothes, and by extension each others’ clothes, until every Kindergarten across this great nation devolves into one massive snotty sticky mess (well, more so than they already were). This is worse than the corn lobby’s ministrations against people who spurn high-fructose corn syrup, because it’s “nutritionally the same as sugar and fine in moderation.” (They leave out that pesky little detail that HFCS is so dirt cheap that food manufacturers may as well put it in everything, everywhere. As a general rule, any ad or congressman that advises you to “get the facts” is probably lying to you.) Because the idea of sneeze-laden shirtsleeves is just SO GROSS.

No amount of elbow grease can out those damn spots.

Bye bye Butterstick

I never went to see cute little Tai Shan panda bearface when he was born. It was 2005, and I was too busy not going to class and cloistering in the isolated nook of Georgetown, DC to schlep all the way out to Connecticut Ave.

But in the past few years (i.e., since I’ve been living with Id and Ego), I’ve tended to regress into a dysfunctional fit of giggles and squeals whenever I see anything cute or cuddly. If someone even so much as describes to me their adorable puppy or cat or puppy dressed as a cat I devolve into smiles and gushing. So I’ve developed a retroactive affection for the once-cuddly (ok, still cuddly; once-small) Tai Shan.

With that background, I share a pitch I wrote (but didn’t actually pitch, which means it certainly wasn’t considered or approved) to try to gin up at least SOME interest in Tai Shan’s unfortunate departure. It’s clearly a stretch, but that absurdity makes it all the more fun.

Adieu, Butterstick. I hope you make lots of panda babies.

PITCH: Panda farewell reminder of Chinese-owned American Assets

A child born in the United States to foreign parents is being extradited to a communist country with one of the most abysmal humanitarian records on Earth. Now, we’re talking about a giant panda here, not a human child, but that surely got your attention. Tai Shan, the beloved panda born in 2005 to panda parents on loan to the US from China, is being sent home to China next Thursday. While the panda loan program is considered an act of good will between the nations, the reality is China owns a lot of the US—including nearly $800 billion in foreign debt—and recalling Tai Shan is just one example of the vise grip with which the country with the world’s third largest economy holds so many American assets.


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