Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kids and the Parents Who Buy For Them

The Consumers International World Congress is, for the first time, giving out Bad Product Awards to companies deemed most irresponsible towards children. This year’s “winners”:

Mattel - for manufacturing toys covered with lead paint from its plants in China.

Coca-Cola -for unabashedly marketing Dasni, which is packaged tap water.

Kellogg Co. - for selling junk food, particularly its sugary kids’ cereals with advertising targeted to kids.

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. - for pitching sleeping pills to kids, including taking out an ad on our airwaves, using school buses, pictures of chalk boards and the like to remind users, "It's back to school season," time to reorder your sleeping pills".

I'm all for striking out at corporations, but how about awards for bad parents? We may not be aware a toy company is using toxic paint, but we surely know Frosted Flakes and sleeping pills aren't good for kids. A message I conveyed to my son was, "We have to limit junk food, so make sure if you're eating something unhealthy, it's worth it". That got him to pass up Devil Dogs in favor of freshly made chocolate cake, not broccoli but preservative-free and contains food, rather than just chemicals. The same rationale encouraged him to pass up hot dogs and hold out for foie gras.

It was a costly trade-off and required an explanation some may think quirky, but every family has its peculiarities. Bottom line was it worked. Nicky developed no fat or cavities, no diabetes or eating disorder. We studied ingredients on labels for nutritional value and fat content. Though we'd never articulatd it, my husband and I were in agreement that our son would eat partially hydrogenated oil only over our dead bodies. When Martin spotted me putting a tin of chocolate pudding into a plastic bin, he spit out, "That has partially hydrogenated oil!!!"

We were living in Los Angeles. "I'm assembling the emergency earthquake kit requested by the school. If Nicky's eating this, it's because we're dead," I explained.

Sure, it's tempting to pop Pop Tarts into kids, indulge their whims, cave when they have tantrums and, if all else fails, bribe them. But there would be no need for Bad Organization Awards if parents would do their part.

Does anyone know if the sleeping pills are for the kids, or the parents?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Bill Clinton is a sex addict" -- Gerald Ford goes on record...posthumously

Former President Gerald Ford agreed to be interviewed for a biography, “Write It When I’m Gone”, on the condition it not be published until after his death. Among the things he didn't want disclosed at the time was an admission in 2004 that he thought Dick Cheney should be dumped from the Republican ticket. I felt that way too, and if Ford had backed me up, maybe my opinion would have been taken more seriously. What was he afraid of? My openness led to no leaking about my husband or me to Bob Novak, not even a tax audit.

Another item Ford didn’t want revealed while he was alive is his belief that Bill Clinton is a sex addict. Did Ford think if he remained silent, Clinton's trysts would go unnoticed? Better they should have pushed Bill to come to the Betty Ford Center, perhaps with the lure of a professional discount for presidential sex addicts.

In another embargoed 2004 interview reported shortly after Ford's death, Ford told Bob Woodward that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, "made a big mistake" with their justifications for the Iraq war. The rest of us came to these conclusions and didn’t wait to stop breathing to share them.

What was Ford thinking? Did he construe his silence as a show of loyalty to the administrations that followed his? Was a show of "support" for the presidents more important than speaking up on behalf of the people? I'm not sure I applaud his choices even though I know there are many things my husband wishes I'd have waited to say until after one of us is dead.

bring back the tin foil on the rabbit ears, please!

today we are getting hdtv. i am not really sure what that means, except i do know that yet another strange, little, man is going to come into my home and add even more boxes and wires and remotes to the mess we already have, surrounding our televisions. according to our son, who has instigated this upgrade, hdtv is going to change our lives. i like my life the way it is but far be it from me to keep the husband mired in the dark ages when he could be a hip, with it, twenty-first century kind of guy.

once we have hdtv, our son assures us, we will never be able to watch regular tv again. apparently this new mode of television is so clear that people and images are even sharper than when you see them in person. in other words, hdtv is better than the human eye. i don't know about you, but i truly do not need to see barbara walters or mike wallace any clearer than i do right now. even katie couric is starting to look a little frayed around the edges and that is just with plain, old, normal t.v.

in addition to the pleasure of being able to identify every mole and pimple on our local weatherman's face, hdtv affords us the opportunity to watch up to 1000 channels. according to my calculations, that is going to elevate channel surfing to an olympic sport. if you spend just one minute, on each channel, you will have to allocate sixteen hours and forty-five minutes a day to channel changing. if you factor in time for sleeping and eating - oh my god - the husband is going to have to retire! he is going to stay home - all day - with me.

there's the door bell. it must be the little man with his boxes and wires. i am not going to answer the door. maybe, he will go away and i can be left at peace with barbara and katie, safely blurry, and my husband at work where he belongs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"Our bad, we can't account for $1.2 billion spent in Iraq"

Just when you thought we’d heard enough bad news from Iraq, there’s an admission from the State Department that they can’t figure out where $1.2 billion went that was to cover the cost of training local forces in Iraq to prepare them for taking over from the coalition and providing for their own security.

I've misplaced a receipt, but we have an over-zealous housekeeper, who tends to toss shopping bags. The worst scenario is I'm unable to return an item to a small store. But how do you explain a governmental agency having no documentation for $1.2 billion? Who's in charge? How do they train the staff? Will the ones responsible be kept? Are they invited to holiday parties?

Our State Departments Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is the agency responsible for this major goof. They’d contracted with DynCorp International to handle this assignment, but sloppy paperwork now makes it impossible for them to account for what they got for the money. $1.2 billion is a huge amount to try to keep in your head. Maybe they should separate the Law Enforcement Affairs branch from the people dealing with Narcotics.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Divorce Announcement: Whose Side Are You On?

Divorce has been re-branded. In the Style Section of today’s New York Times is an article on a new practice, announcing a break-up -- either by sending printed cards or shooting out a group e-mail --though to be sure it gets read, I’d include a scary hoax warning.

Some experiencing a marital break-up report that making light of the painful process helps with the healing. By taking control and spreading the news personally, you get to set the tone. You could go with something like, “The private eye confirmed my fears so please send sedatives and names of high-powered attorneys” or “I finally understand why you always rolled your eyes when she opened up her mouth”.

We have a friend whose first wife left in such a rage, she took everything, even the built-ins. I see that as the Katrina of divorces, and he would have been wise to send out announcements, register at William Sonoma and have friends throw him a divorce shower. Moving on isn’t easy, but doing it without a face towel or fork is something nobody should have to face.

These divorce notifications could be modeled on wedding invitations and include a response card that asks recipients to check off which of the former partners they intend to side with. And why limit it to divorce? How about cards to publicize losing a job, law suit, diamond earrings or memory. It would provide more opportunitities to troll for sympathy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Do I want to know if I'm likely to get Alzheimer's?

Is it good news that scientists have developed a blood test that could reveal which patients with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer's disease? I’m still lucid enough to understand it’s only useful if it leads to earlier, effective treatment, and not just earlier worrying. Alzheimer's is a progressive, fatal brain disease that affects almost one in eight individuals over the age of 65. I’m 65 and none of my friends has it, which makes me want to make a new friend with Alzheimer's to improve my odds.

The new test allowed the testers to predict, with 81% accuracy, which of the mildly ditzy people (my term, not theirs) would ultimately develop Alzheimer's on average around 30 months before clinical diagnosis. They're cautioning us not to get excited about the findings, but nobody will have to pull me down from the rafters. Nothing about Alzheimer's excites me.

They – and I’m not sure which they this is – recommend learning a new language and doing crossword puzzles to keep your brain agile. But they don’t specify if it’s enough to do the one in New York Magazine or do you have to finish the one in London's Times? The disparity is as great as the difficulty for an English-speaking person to learn Spanish vs. Thai.

I'm not sure how to react to this though seeing my husband on the couch finishing the puzzle from tomorrow's New York Times leaves nothing for me but to rush out to Berlitz.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Any Man, even a serial, sado-masochistic, addicted murderer, can get women

I was recently asked by a friend to recall the low points of my dating life, and what came to mind was a dinner at my house designed to introduce friends to a man I’d just started seeing, whom I overheard telling them, “I’m both a voyeur and an exhibitionist”. But reading about a man known in tabloids as “Mexico City’s cannibal”, accused this week of murdering, then cutting up and eating part of his girlfriend's body affirmed my lament that dating is not a level playing field.

He's believed to have a history of killing girlfriends. "He killed her because he was high on cocaine," claimed his defense attorney, adding, "He didn't eat her, he just cut her body up”, explaining he cooked the flesh to feed it to neighborhood dogs. But the city coroner described the care the guy had taken in preparing the food, seasoning it with lime juice, not pains one usually takes even for a beloved pet. The girlfriend’s mutilated torso had been stuffed into a closet, a leg in the freezer and bits of arm meat on a fork and plate.

What shouldn’t amaze me, but does, is that this sub-zero human (yes, that’s a pun on the leg in the freezer) was able to attract girlfriends, many of whom were single mothers and drug store attendants (perhaps because of a clonazepan addiction) – while passing himself off as a playwright, television personality, reporter, novelist, actor and poet. The mother of a victim described him as "a very vain person ... everything was me, me, me."

Despite his history, trust me, if this guy ends up in jail, women will be writing him, eager to meet and have a relationship, hiding clonazepan in churros for him. But let a woman gain fifteen pounds, she’ll not get a man, unless maybe cannibals like overweight women.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hiding Spinach in Brownies,..& other great ways to be a role model for your kids

There’s been an accusation that Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, helped itself to some surreptitious string bean tricks from The Sneaky Chef, written by Missy Chase Lapine. Both books encourage fooling your kids into eating vegetables by hiding them in kid-friendly food. Lapine claims, "There are uncanny similarities between my book and Ms. Seinfeld's," pointing out they both suggest concealing cauliflower puree in mashed potatoes.

Does this constitutes plagiarism? That depends on whether or not everyone is hiding spinach in brownies, in which case it’s public domain and not grounds for a law suit. I, for one, never hid vegetables in brownies. My generation had a different take on what you hid in brownies. When our son was young, I wanted to generate trust, so was explicit when mixing liquid medicines and grape juice to avoid his gagging. I pointedly minimized fast foods and sweets, hoping to encourage a fondness for healthy foods. "You never give me chips", he spit at me with unrestrained resentment after a playdate. My plan didn't work and I'm not sure he entirely trusts me, but I feel above reproach.

Beyond the deception, these books encourage bad eating habits as they involve a regular diet of macaroni, lasagne, grilled cheese sandwiches chocolate pudding and other desserts, all contributing factors to childhood obesity and diabetes. These books require keeping your children out of the kitchen. How would you explain the presence of broccoli that never makes an appearance at a meal? "Oh, I'm keeping it for a neighbor?...I mistook it for a Sara Lee cake?"

Both Seinfeld and Lapine have no qualms about lying to their kids. If the case goes to trial, whose testimony would the jury find less credible?

we didn't start the fire

my state is burning and once again the malibu barbies and san diego surfer dudes are brought to their knees by a single common denominator - the devastating wild fires that are consuming california.

over a million people have been evacuated. that is the largest evacuation in this country since the civil war. even those of us not directly effected are breathing the acrid, smoke filled air and brushing ash and embers off our cars and patio furniture each morning. though we are miles from the nearest fire our sun, every day, shines the same eerie, blood red and muted orange of the fire zone.

thousands of people down south have been living in qualcomm stadium - shades of katrina but with a few huge differences. these evacuees not only have cots and blankets and pillows and tents (qualcomm is an outdoor stadium) but there are miles of food tents offering everything from kosher to vegetarian fare. there are pilates and yoga instructors, hairdressers and massage therapists. the children are being treated to clowns and puppet shows and so many supplies are being brought in to feed and clothe these displaced persons that the authorities had to ask people to please slow down on their donations.

so what is the difference between katrina and california? one is that, the bush administration, having taken such a beating over their mishandling of new orleans, is being extra careful with this disaster. two is that our governator, arnold, has truly risen to the occasion and proven himself a really effective leader. i, like many californians, was embarrassed when we elected yet another actor to lead our state and i must admit, i was wrong. while, i don't exactly know his day to day record in sacaramento, his handling of this crisis earns him an a plus in my book. and thirdly, after watching hours and hours of news coverage, one can't help but notice the complexion of the evacuees. i have not seen one black face among the thousands that have been photographed and interviewed endlessly on t.v.

california burns in places where only the very rich and entitled live. you pay a high price both financially and safety wise to live in view of the pacific or in the peaceful and verdant canyons that nestle in the mountains of this beautiful state. while the concrete ghettos of california burn only when the frustration and pain of inner city living causes it's residents to take up arms and torch their cities, the other california, the california of privilege, implodes spontaneously when mother nature has had enough.

as long as we keep building castles where only chaparral was meant to grow, and as long as we keep tearing down forests to put up mansions, our state will burn. but we are a tough and determined people who have trouble learning a lesson. the fires will burn themselves out, the rains will come and then the mudslides and then we will rebuild, once more, in the same places, with the same dangers. and life will go on, until next year when the santa ana wind kicks up, throwing the barbies and the dudes into chaos once again.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

You can breathe easily. BicoastalBroads will not be striking

Readers, do not despair. Though we're members of the Writers Guild of America and supportive of the Broadway guilds and New York taxi drivers (well, those who comply to our pleas that they slow down, stop talking on their cell phones and put out their cigarettes), we will continue to keep blogging regardless of any upcoming labor strikes.

So if you can't get around the city, miss out on seeing "Young Frankenstein" and are being fed reruns of "Malcolm in the Middle", Bicoastalbroads will continue to be operational. Look at this as an opportunity to go back through our archives and comment.

And please be assured we're not bitter that two other women were given the task of commanding the upcoming shuttle flight into space. Neither of us is known for sense of direction and even with Mapquest, we'd likely have taken any shuttle entrusted to us right into Saks Fifth Avenue. My advice to these two more capable women is to keep their AAA cards handy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

happy birthday husband!!

today is the husband's birthday. this is the forty-third birthday we have celebrated together. today he is sixty-six and i, amazingly, am still twenty-five. none the less, despite our age difference, i am still madly in love with the old coot and try my best, each year, to buy him a gift that he will love and adore, not just on opening , but for years after.

this year i decided on a pasquini espresso machine, complete with bean grinder and steamer. friends (including our very own bi-coastal broad) warned me that buying an espresso machine was easy, operating it was a whole other story. even the man who sold me the machine suggested i bring the husband in for a tutorial. i laughed to myself. the husband is smart, he is successful, he is an accomplished chef - he can certainly figure out an espresso machine. i have seen high school drop-outs whip out perfect cappuccinos and espressos without blinking an eye. surely, the husband could do as well as a minimum wage earner. i was wrong.

i accidentally (on purpose) woke the husband this morning around seven a.m. i couldn't wait to give him his gift and since i was up i figured he should be up as well. just as i expected, he was thrilled with the present and just as i expected he couldn't wait to try it. after a cursory glance at the directions he set out to make his first cup of cappuccino. glitch number one - we had no cappuccino cups. not to worry, he improvised, using an only slightly dirty plastic cup left over from a baby shower i had given last summer. that problem solved, he filled the machine with water, ground the beans, filled the gizmo with coffee, tamped it down and turned it on. water and coffee flew every where but in the plastic cup. i cleaned the mess up (at this point i was still interested in helping) and he began again - grinding beans, tamping down and turning on. this time the liquid actually made it into the cup but it was ice cold. in spite of the temperature the husband was determined to drink it. "ummm" he pronounced, "i think i am getting the hang of this". once again, i cleaned up (not so interested as i was in the first go round). the third time was the charm, more or less. the coffee was hot and it did, once again, make it into the cup. steaming the milk turned out to be a piece of cake (albeit a messy piece of cake) but he did manage to have a sip or two of his very own, home made cappuccino.

later in the day i asked the husband if he really liked his gift. i was thinking that about four o'clock was a really good time for a cappuccino and yet he was nowhere near the kitchen and the brand new pasquini. "you are so close to making the perfect cup. are you giving up?" i asked.
"no" he answered, "it's just that i am so wired i am afraid if i keep trying to make the perfect cappuccino i may never sleep again".

so like a man. he wants a perfect cappuccino and a good nights sleep.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What About No Parent Left Behind?

For 24 years our son lived with us, which not only assured that we'd see him regularly, but the house was filled with friends, music, baseball mitts and laundry. There was an excuse to buy chips and Entenmann’s chocolate-covered doughnuts. Our job as parents was to make our son feel safe. However irrational, when the family was together, I, too, felt safe.

The most exciting piece of furniture we ever acquired was the crib, the hub of a room that was all about baby, love and promise. It was where toes were discovered and words were learned. Stick figures gave way to cursive script, and before long, I was asking him how to download or say something in French. The bed, sheets, sneakers and computer programs changed, keeping up with Nicky's growth. His room was the most dynamic in the house, where time and space conflated, a marker of the growing process for all of us.

Several months ago our son moved out. It was age appropriate, he’s living within walking distance, yet there’s an emptiness unrelated to a spare room or real estate. My husband and I are moving on with loving reluctance. Bringing home a baby was magical; the preparation was joyous. We hadn’t anticipated this stage, or maybe we were in denial, dreading the time when contact would be text messages and occasional dinners.

Choosing the wall color and sleeper sofa for what had been Nicky's room was accompanied by none of the euphoria we'd experienced while decorating the nursery or even transforming his room to be right for a teenager. There’s a substantial amount of work being done in there and none of it interests me. Kids move out without vacuuming or spackling up holes in the wall, which is why I teased him that parents should take a cue from landlords and get a security deposit from their kids. But the truth is it’s not the holes in the wall I'm having trouble filling.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

i received my new passport today. it came complete with a really terrible photograph of me. i had a nightmare last night that any number of foreign countries would either not let me in or out of their homelands. i dreamed that they took one look at passport judi and said things like, "sorry madam. that couldn't possibly be you - you are much younger or thinner or better looking than that. we have to deny you entry or exit or take you directly to prison never to be heard from again". the husband of course thinks i am crazy. he said he didn't even think the photo was that bad. that was a really wrong thing for him to say.

it is not just that i hate the photo in my new passport - it's that i hate everything about my new passport. first of all, it is embedded with an electronic chip which apparently has stored in it all my pertinent information. because of the electronic component, you can not bend or fold it and god forbid you should get it wet. i don't want a passport that is so high maintenance. this new passport has pages and pages of rules and quotes by martin luther king, teddy roosevelt and john f. kennedy. there are photos of mt. rushmore, the liberty bell and the statue of liberty. then there are three pages of scary rules and warnings and one section where you are supposed to fill out, in pencil, your home address and your address in any foreign country you happen to be. each time you change hotels or locations you are supposed to erase the previous address and fill in a new one. i am thinking that the people who thought up this feature have never traveled with a jewish prince who happens to change hotels on a whim. i am barely able to keep a travel diary much less spend my days writing and erasing in my electronic passport. i don't want to have to add a number two pencil to my travel essentials.

the last thing i hate about my new passport is that this may very well be my last. at my age, every time i buy something that is purported to last ten to fifteen years i get very nervous. if you have read previous blogs, you would know that i refuse to buy a new, badly needed mattress for that very same reason. i don't want my next mattress to be my last. i am only hoping that if i never buy a new mattress i will live forever. my new passport is good for ten years. i don't want this to be my last passport. i have a terrible fear that when i get to heaven god will scan my electronic chip, take one look at my photo, and not let me in on the grounds that i don't look a thing like that woman.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Kid Could Come Up With That Cartoon: a copycat crime?

The New Yorker has a weekly cartoon contest, giving readers a chance to submit captions. Today, unable to pick between two ideas, it occured to me I could enter one in my name, the other in my son's. Would it be a "copycat crime", a response to having just seen My Kid Could Paint That, the documentary on 4-year-old Marla Olmstead, whose abstract paintings were compared to Picasso and Pollock and were selling for outlandish sums until a 60 Minutes segment challenged the authenticity of the work and suggested that her father, an amateur painter, had a hand in them.

The film makes no conclusive statement about the authenticity of the art. The director admits he struggled with the issue of whether people may be capable of doing things you wish they wouldn’t, but concluded it was unlikely these people could have been passing off the father's painting as their daughter's. But whether the con is in contemporary art or with Marla is left up to us.

My husband and I imagine it may have begun as a prank with the father musing, “I bet there are people out there who wouldn’t know the difference between a professional’s abstract art and Marla's paintings. Let’s get her a show and see”. He may have spruced up the paintings a bit, rationalizing that it's not unlike giving a little help with a college application essay. The mother chose to trust, or perhaps hope, there hadn’t been a significant amount of “help”.

What do I, as a contest entrant with a moral dilemma, take away from this story? First, The New Yorker sells for $4.99 a copy, far less by subscription. Nobody would be bilked out of thousands of dollars because of me. If you were to poll the readers, I doubt you’d find one for whom the contest is a priority. Aside from the editors and other entrants, who gives serious thought to the contest?

Our son is 24, old enough to be above suspicion. I'm not trying to pass him off as a prodigy deserving of a documentary. This would be less risky than his having gotten served with a fake I.D. that put his age at 22 with a picture of a Bar Mitzvah-aged boy. Okay, it's fraudulent, but not nearly so damaging as those mothers with Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy who repeatedly bring their kids to doctors for unnecessary medical procedures.

I have until October 21, the deadline for the contest, to grapple with this.

thank god for tivo!!

i was eating lunch today, reading the l.a. times and watching nora o'donnell on msnbc. my mind was mostly on my tuna salad and slightly on an article talking about how the city of anaheim, home of mickey mouse, was opening a new museum, when i heard the strangest thing. nora o'donnell was interviewing lynne chenney and asked her how she felt about having a woman president. ms cheney mumbled something very republican and i turned back to my salad, when i then heard chenney say that she had done some research for her new book and found that her husband, and barak obama, were eighth cousins. i couldn't believe my ears. i rewound my tivo and sure enough - barak obama and dick cheney are cousins!

it's not the fact that a half black man and a white man in america are related that is so earth shattering, it is the fact that it is being brought up at all - and by a white man. it wasn't so long ago, in this country, that even a drop of black blood would disqualify one from many of the rights and privileges of our society. to have someone like dick cheney, of all people, come out of his closet and proclaim his relationship with a man of color, and a liberal man of color at that, is stunning.

knowing cheney as well as we all do after almost eight years of his scary presence (or non-presence) it is hard to imagine him doing anything without a motive. what could he possibly hope to gain by letting this little tidbit slip out? we know, with this guy, that nothing just happens, so he must have some ulterior motive. could it be that he is angling for a cabinet position in obama's administration? no, that wouldn't work. since bobby kennedy there is some kind of rule about nepotism in a presidential administration, so what could it be?

a few minutes after lynne cheney's announcement, nora o'donnell had an announcement of her own. it seems that not only is obama an eighth cousin to dick cheney, but he is also an eleventh cousin to george w. bush. this called for, once again, a tivo rewind. now, it seems that just about everyone is trying to get in on the act. what could possibly motivate these two arch conservatives to suddenly climb out of the obama family tree? the only thing i can think of is that maybe barak and michelle give really good christmas presents.

Gossip Is The New News

What Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead may or may not have done and what Anna Nicole Smith’s two nannies may or may not have seen may (forget the option of “or may not”) be given priority over what may or may not be happening in Iraq.

If there’s something new with Lindsay Lohan or O.J. Simpson, it's bad news for Anderson Cooper, who's sure to be bumped even if waiting in the eye of a hurricane, protected only by a windbreaker. It’s no accident that there’s a new series called “Gossip Girl”, which, given the climate, will get better ratings than “Informed Girl” or “Wonk Girl”.

In today’s New York Times there’s a story on gossip in the Science Section, removed from gossip we’re fed in the other sections. There was a test conducted to determine the power of gossip. They needed a lab to study gossip?!! One has only to recall the speed with which the story about the actor and the gerbil (I’m taking the high road and not naming either the actor or the gerbil). Within a week, we each heard the story several times from someone claiming, "I heard this from the nurse who removed the gerbil". This gave rise to many questions, adding to the life of the story. How many people could this nurse have known? Do HMO’s have a code for removing a gerbil? Is it considered elective or cosmetic surgery?

Politicians and celebrities are generally seen as fair topics unless they're personal friends, which heightens interest in the story but makes you look shabby and disloyal. Less clear is what you can disclose about those you know. I make an effort not to repeat a confidence told to me directly, particularly if it might cause pain or embarrassment. Sometimes I'll allow myself to tell one person who’s a stranger to the subject of the story but only if I'm sure they'll never meet. I was once troubled by the question of whether or not I remained obligated to keep the secrets of a friend who'd dumped me.

A new wrinkle is my memory has become less reliable. I can't trust myself to remember who prefaced a story with, "Promise you won't repeat this". The result is I'm now more discrete than I may or may not want to be.

Sunday, October 14, 2007 where is this heading?

The invitation to serve as an unofficial spy network and file online reports of abusive or negligent nannies is a natural offshoot of truck bumper stickers reading, “How’s my driving?” This fifteen-month old site provides some measure of comfort to parents while alerting caregivers that “Big Mother is watching”. Being out of nanny camera range doesn’t mean they’ll get away with smacking a toddler or stuffing him with Fritos.

The website is most popular in New York, where nannies are so often in public areas. When our son was young and being transported to play dates, I would happily have put a “How’s my driving?” bumper sticker on our car. We not only gave prospective nannies driving tests, but provided lessons to Liz from Great Britain as she'd never driven on the right side of the road. After hiring her, we discovered we should have given her a sobriety test.

It takes little urging, okay none, for me to offer my opinion. Last night I spoke up about the olive oil, the only flaw at a new restaurant we tried. A friend once teased that I carry an imaginary clipboard and red pencil. I always welcome a chance to weigh in, reviewing hotels on Trip Advisor and assessing appliances on Epinions. On my AOL Buddy List is the CEO of my health club, to whom I report regularly. A typical e-mail is, “The TV’s still aren’t working and a trainer left a wad of chewing gum on the treadmill.”

Will this deputizing catch on? Might it lead to:




Saturday, October 13, 2007

speak no evil

i have a new friend. she is young enough to be my daughter and i adore her. she is funny and bright and has three, young, adorable children, just like my grandchildren would be, if my own children weren't so selfish and actually had some grandchildren for me, but that's another story. my new friend is also an orthodox jew. wig and all.

her orthodoxy (or for that matter my non-orthodoxy) does not get in the way of our friendship. while i don't pretend to understand the life choice she has made (she was not born into an orthodox family) especially on a boiling hot, los angeles day when, seeing her in stockings, ankle length skirts, long sleeve blouses and a wig, i certainly respect her right to make that choice and while we can't go out to lunch at any old restaurant and she can't have dinner at my house, we still manage to have a lot of fun.

there are a lot of rules to being orthodox and the rules seem to cover every aspect of life. you can not be orthodox and a rebel. everything is spelled out for you as far as what to eat, what to wear, when to have or not have sex, and how to behave in every situation. in some ways that way of life seems very peaceful and safe. while i could never imagine living the way my new friend does, i could almost understand the appeal - until she bought me a present.

my gift was a book entitled "guard your tongue". it is a practical guide to the laws of "loshon hora". "loshon hora" can be translated as damaging speech. the note with the book said "i am not trying to change you, i am just giving you some food for thought, and a subject for us both to argue about".

there are 189 pages of rules about not speaking or even thinking ill of another. it is spelled out quite clearly with rules for spouses, business partners and neighbors. one of my favorite rules is "avak loshon hora" or "a tinge of "lohson hora". it is not actually "loshon hora" but it causes "loshon hora" to be spoken. for example, you could say "what a shame about mary" ( then again, probably not mary - how about rivka) that would allow the listener to become curious and "loshon hora" would be spoken. my all time favorite rule, however, is not to praise someone in the presence of his enemies. if you praise someone in the presence of someone who does not like him, your praise can provoke the listener to committ "loshon hora". according to this particular rule, you should not even mention a person's name in front of one who dislikes him. now, here is my question. if you follow all of the other 280 rules, how could you possibly know who doesn't like whom? if no one is allowed to talk ill of another, how are you supposed to know there is a problem?

after reading the book, my new friend challenged me to go two days without speaking ill of another. i made it to lunch on the first day. i was really pissed because i blew it on britany spears. i mean it wasn't like i even got to spew about a friend of mine (she calls herself a friend) who stole my housekeeper. i have new respect for my orthodox friend. actually new respect for all fundamentalists who live their lives by such strict rules of goodness. probably, if we all practiced a little "loshon hora" the world would be a better place. just like my mother used to tell me -"if you can't say anything nice, say nothing". a nice sentiment. come to think of it it must have been based on "loshon hora". it probably would be a nicer way to live - if we were all saints - but, then, what would happen to people magazine?


I've never heard anyone say, “She's carrying a fabulous purse. I've got to meet her", yet women have gone crazy over expensive bags. Online retailer reports that sales of luxury handbags, defined as those over $500, increased 11% last year. This has been going on while people are dying due to poverty. In yesterday's New York Times there was a story on people in Japan starving because their social security payments had been curtailed. “I wish I could eat rice. I want a rice ball,” one man wrote before he died.

Wouldn’t we feel better saving lives than carrying a Birkin by Hermes, which goes for somewhere between $6,000 and $15,000? Or do we justify it because it’s not the Crocodile Birkin, with 10 carats of diamonds set in white gold that goes for $120,000? What's a fair amount to give veterans on the streets calling out, “Do you have any loose change?” when you're clutching one of these bags?

There’s a conspiracy between bag makers and the people who carry them. If Sex and the City stars had been seen with Whole Food canvas bags, they'd have promoted a social consciousness. Women would be spending money on organic bananas, not lizard purses. And did anyone admire Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren for bringing Lana Marks Cleopatra bags to the Academy Awards? Knowing the price explains why Helen Mirren took hers onstage; you don't leave a $100,000 purse on a seat to be filled by a production assistant.

I wouldn't want a lizard for a house pet, but I'd like to see animal rights activists get involved in this craze. And I hope women come to realize the only ones appreciating them for owning expensive bags are those profiting from it and self-indulgent fashionastas.

Friday, October 12, 2007

THE NOBEL PRIZE: the morning after

The Nobel Prize is not the Oscars. Doris Lessing, now 88, finally recognized for her prolific contributions to literature, is pictured on the front page of today’s New York Times after hearing she’d won. Nobody is critiquing her peacock blue dress that clearly wasn’t designed by Bob Mackie and there are no Harry Winston glittering baubles. She’s quoted as saying, “I had forgotten about it actually”, which I believe as she would have done something with her hair and put on lipstick. She was heard to cancel a date to meet someone at a Chinese restaurant, apologizing that she couldn’t go because she’d just won the Nobel Prize. That's surely the most unique excuse ever for breaking a date. No after-party for her!

Al Gore, who won for his efforts to spread awareness on man-made climate issues, probably didn't rush to call his agent to translate the award into a negotiating tool should he make a sequel to his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth though More Inconvenient Truths might be forthcoming. Many are hoping – but I wouldn't include Hillary, Edwards or Obama – that the prize will propel him to run for office.

The chairman of the prize committee said Gore’s award of the peace prize should not be interpreted as "singling out the administration of President George W. Bush for criticism. A peace prize is never a criticism of anything. A peace prize is a positive message and support to all those champions of peace in the world."

He failed to mention that Doris Lessing’s prize in the field of literature should also not be construed as a criticism of our president, who not only doesn't write, but doesn't read. It takes far less than the Nobel Prize to make this president look bad.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

get in the kitchen and rattle those pots and pans, amen!!!!

in today's los angeles times, there was a front page article about the southwestern baptist theological seminary - a century old training ground for southern baptists. at this school, the students are taught that god values men and women equally, it's just that he has given them different responsibilities - men make decisions and women make dinner.

to reinforce these gender specific roles, the college is now offering classes in homemaking - for women only! these female students will be taught that god expects wives to graciously submit to their husband's leadership and next fall, there will be a model home on campus, to allow women to get credit toward their bachelor's degrees, by learning how to set a table, sew on buttons and sustain lively dinner conversation. these women are taught that it is god's will that they stay home and create a heaven on earth for their husband's. as far as i could tell from the article, the only things expected of a husband was that he lead his family in laying down the law. what law, was not exactly clear but, according to seminary president paige paterson, it is very clear, in the scriptures, that men shall lead and women shall follow.

i am all for a little "heaven on earth" myself but somehow, in the real world, i don't think a well done brisket or a platter full of crispy cookies is going to do it. wouldn't our world and our particular god - who ever he may be - be better served if all of us, men and women, get to live out our lives to our fullest potential? if, at the end of my days, i show up at the pearly gates and am denied entrance because my kitchen floor had waxy yellow build-up, or my quiche did not come, fresh from the oven with a home made crust, than so be it. i don't believe that any god would give us a brain in order for us to turn ourselves into stepford wives.

Test: Are You Fully Grown Up?

I love taking tests, not the pop quizzes teachers spring on you to see if you've done the reading nor those high-stress exams they warn, “will count for 70% of your grade”. The tests I find fun are the ones that count for nothing, like the daily AOL questions to see if you're at risk of Alzheimers or in agreement with most of the population about who won the last presidential debate.

Today I was polled to see if I feel Laura Bush was right to speak up about the civil rights abuses in Burma, which I do, but I wish it had been an essay, instead of multiple choice, so I could have added that she should have started by speaking to her husband about abuse of power. The next quiz to come my way was designed to help me figure out if I'm all grown up. It included:

Your houseplants are alive, and you can’t smoke any of them.

You keep more food than beer in the fridge.

Your friends marry and divorce instead of “hook up” and “breakup.”

“I just can’t drink the way I used to” replaces “I’m never going to drink that much again.”

There were others, but I came up with criteria of my own:

When you lie about your age, it's not so you can get served.

Late is 10 pm.

Fixing a computer involves money.

When you travel, the first thing you pack are your pills.

You’re shorter than what it says on your license.

You buy shoes for comfort.

The word “hormone" looks naked without “replacement”.

You steer clear of grapefruit juice because it's not compatible with Lipitor.

You're never expected to spend the night on a futon.

Your doctor calls you by your title.

You know how to drive a stick shift.

A million dollars sounds like a lot.

This type is hard to read.

You'd forgotten about pop quizzes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

get that q-tip away from me!!

it seems that the latest craze sweeping the nation these days is finding our ancestral roots. all it takes is a q-tip, to swab the inside of your mouth for dna, about $400 and a mailing tube. there are companies springing up all over who are happy to take your money and your saliva and in a few weeks time will send you a list of long, lost and here-to-fore unknown relatives.

it seems a black woman in new york sent off her dna in hopes of finding her roots. what came up was a sixty-seven year old montana rancher. imagine this poor woman's surprise when this very white man, in a cowboy hat, showed up on her harlem door step.

now here is the truth. both of my parents were the youngest of nine. i have more aunts and uncles than i can shake a stick at and don't even get me started on my dozens of cousins. i have a gay cousin, a couple of communists, an arch conservative and an aunt, who every year checked herself into the local mental institution because they let her have the lead in the broadway musicals they put on to entertain the other patients. i have an another aunt who has been married six times and a cousin who never married and still managed to have four children. my uncle ben hasn't left his apartment since 1942, something about the japanese and my cousin vivian wore a pink tutu to school until she was graduated high school

in other words...why the hell would i want to find any more relatives? don't i have enough tsouris with my god given family. somehow, i don't really want to search the globe for any more crazy family members. this is a perfect example of less is more.

The new "Get Real" Fortune Cookies

Surely you’ve had the experience of sitting with someone in a Chinese restaurant who reads the fortune cookie aloud, “You bring sunshine to the lives of all you meet” and you want to scream, "No, no, that doesn't mean you should tell that dumb joke yet again!" Fortune cookies are typically upbeat and flattering, totally unrealistic when predicting we should expect good luck, instead of the radiator leaks, rebellious children, allergies and speeding tickets that are likely coming our way.

Well, Wonton Foods, the country’s largest fortune cookie maker, has become realistic (maybe some of the big shots went into therapy or the misleading, upbeat fortunes were found to contain lead and recalled to China). They're now producing messages such as, “Today is a disastrous day. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” along with, “It’s over your head now. Time to get some professional help”.

Not everyone is enthused about the new messages. A woman from Austin, Texas said her fiance got the “disastrous day” fortune when they were celebrating their engagement at the Chinese restaurant where they’d had their first date. He teased that if he’d gotten it before, he might not have proposed. This brought to mind a story Rob Reiner, Carl's son, got a kick out of telling about a fortune he got not once, but twice, prior to becoming Meathead on All In The Family, which read, "Talent, like the gout, skips a generation".

Wonton has a catalog of 10,000 fortunes and reports finding it hard to come up with new sayings. My proposals:

Put down that cookie! Your buttons aren't closing.

Get over it. You are out of the closet.

There will be no raise. Expect a pink slip.

If he really loves you, he’d have left his wife and you'd be in a restaurant with a tablecloth and clean glasses.

Face it, not everyone has what it takes to write a play.

You're going to be audited.

Have you thought about suing your plastic surgeon?

When you say, "I'm telling you this because I care about you", it's b.s.

Odds are we’re going into Iran.

Quit bragging about your kids.

Tip like that again and the “pork” will be cat.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

bring back the good old days

it used to be that i would be worried that i would have nothing to blog about. now, it seems that the opposite is true. i can not keep up with all the outrageous and ludicrous things going on in our country. every day brings forth a new lie, a new indiscretion, a new murderer walking free and a new pedophile moving around the corner from a school.

we thought we saw the last of o.j. and even larry craig but they both seem to be as hard to get rid of as poison ivy. britney, for sure, was going down the tubes and today i read that her new single is number one on the pop charts. she may have lost her two children but, hey, a hit is a hit.

i can't even bring myself to write about politics. even the democrats are pissing me off. i thought, as we all did that things couldn't get much worse and then they do. i get a headache just listening to the replay of clarence thomas and anita hill with their he said/she said routine - i just wish they would all go away. isiah thomas says it's o.k. for a black man to call a black woman a bitch. apparently the jury didn't agree so the black bitch got to walk away with 11 million dollars. george bush says torture isn't torture if you call torture by another name. i think i am getting too old for all this. everything is getting too complicated. i liked it back in the day when things were simpler and you know just where you stood. kind of like calling a spade a spade - back when you could actually say that.

Performance Enhancing Drugs -- the wrong people are using them

Yesterday Track & Field Olympian star, Marion Jones, tearfully confessed she was lying when she’d professed not to have used performance enhancing drugs.

The admission was a refreshing departure from the daily routine of denials, the most recent being, “The United States doesn’t torture prisoners of war”. If that can be said, it’s only because the administration redefined torture to exclude specific tactics they use in an effort to get intelligence. They continue to do this despite overwhelming evidence that these techniques inspire prisoners to give false information in order to put a stop to the non-torture.

If only our society valued honesty as much as success. And if only there were performance enhancing drugs for people with sub-par performance records: our leaders in Washington.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A stolen da Vinci was recovered: in defense of hoarding

Today’s revelation in London that detectives recovered a $65 million Leonardo da Vinci painting, Madonna with the Yarnwinder, stolen from a Scottish castle in 2003 by two thieves posing as tourists who'd overpowered a guide, is bad news for me. I’m married to a man with hoarding tendencies while my inclination is to toss out a newspaper once I've gotten the idea of a front page story.

The rationale for hanging onto stuff is, “I’m not sure what I want to do with it” or the even more vague and less convincing, “You never know”. We have Skitch Henderson albums, pictures of people nobody recognizes, Hebrew school report cards and thermometers that don't work.

The painting, which had been in the Buccleuch family for over 200 years and was recovered a month after the death at 83 of the ninth Duke of Buccleuch, is going to add to my problems as it will reinforce the argument that somewhere in the mounds of picture frames and stereo speakers cluttering our apartment may lurk something of value.

In the next few days – or decades, depending when they make their way through ten-year-old newspapers to get to this story, someone in the family will spit out at me, “If one of the Buccleuch family had been married to you, that painting would have been given to a thrift shop!"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

kick out the clowns

i have been hearing a lot of chatter this week about hillary and her chuckle. according to some news sources she is chuckling too much. they say she is not a natural laugher and the voters don't want to see her pretend. it makes them uncomfortable. jon stewart, showing clips of hillary chuckling, on various sunday morning news shows, likened her to an automaton, laughing on cue.

i don't remember anybody ever discussing the chuckle factor regarding margaret thatcher, golda meir or indira ghandi. i, personally don't care whether my president would make a good dinner partner or a winning team mate at pictionary. i am far more concerned with some one who is smart, open minded, well educated and possessing a world view.

it seems to me that we have already tried a clown in the white house for the past two terms. you would think that america would be ready for something new. chuckles, the current president, has gotten us into more trouble than any president in the history of this nation. i personally wouldn't mind, one bit, if we finally had a president who actually took our country's well being, and it's standing in the world, just a tad more seriously and left the laughter to the comedians.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Marketing and its relevancy to the presidential campaign

Packaging, logos, spin and branding have become industries, often at the expense of content, and I worry that much of the strategy is wasted on me because I think I'm less visually oriented than others. I’ve been buying the same deodorant since I started needing deodorant, okay it’s Ban, and the change in bottles and packaging meant nothing until this moment, when I first gave it thought. I don't remember when they changed to green bottles, but it was very likely researched at great expense and found to communicate, “this will keep you cool and mint-like”, though to me it's meaningless. I buy exactly the same amount as I did before the change.

There's no time better than a presidential campaign to consider, if not mistrust, images. Is a red tie worn by a candidate calculated to appeal to red states? Is the bracelet on Clinton’s wrist a signal to those who wear “I’m supporting Lance Armstrong or breast cancer” jewelry? I have no non-profit jewelry and though I recognize yellow and pink, the others remain a mystery.

Logos are big business and so are fonts, which are carefully selected to convey an image with focus groups being queried at length before these all-important decisions are made. Even so, I give more thought to the content of my writing and am fine with the top font on the list, Times New Roman, which is clear and easy enough to read for those of us moving from a 2 correction to 2.5. I occasionally switch to bold or italic for the sake of emphasis or to be grammatically correct.

I’m as suspicious as the next voter, maybe more. Is Michelle Obama’s carping about her husband a strategy to attract the votes of angry wives? That's probably a sizable block. Can we expect to see Judith Giuliani pass through the hands of an image consultant and emerge with a softened face, flaunting photos of Rudy's kids and confining herself to one airplane seat? Or is she actually an asset for getting to second/third, fourth and fifth wives who hate a guy's past entanglements? Is Hillary’s necklace picked by a committee? Will John Edwards go to a cheap barber to prove he can get support even with a generic hair cut?

Is a candidate's message valid, or is that, too, vetted by the branding team, who breaks it down for us into pre-chewed, sound bytes? If that’s the case, the only reliable factors are a candidate's record and experience, which requires we do the research and trust ourselves. It’s hard enough picking deodorant and toilet paper, let alone a president.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

i can't believe i actually feel sorry for barbie

the other night the husband and i were invited to a party, at the home of a friend's, in beverly hills. they were having about sixty people for a sit down dinner and dancing. the yard was beautiful, a perfect los angeles evening and the dj knew just what music to play for our crowd. during the cocktail hour i circulated, trying to see who i would want to sit with. every so often the husband and i would rendezvous in a corner and compare notes. well into the cocktail hour neither one of us had made the kind of connection that would make us want to commit to an entire evening of chatter.

finally, dinner was called and, much to our surprise, the seating was, in fact, not in our hands. the hostess had taken care of it and, as she told me the next day, had taken great pains to seat people with other like minded people. it's a good thing i didn't know that before hand because, on laying eyes on my table mates. i would have questioned her sanity.

there were three other couples at our table. all the men looked like the husband but the women - wow. first off. each of them were second wives. not a one was under five ten. they each had long, blond, perfectly streaked hair, legs up to their armpits and, since none of them had ever borne children, they had the perfect flat stomachs and toned bodies of the childless. while they were each at least ten years younger than me, they had all added plastic surgery to their grooming routine, with perfectly unlined faces and wide opened eyes. but is was the lips that fascinated me. you could not, in spite of the perfect bodies and flowing hair, take your eyes off their lips. they were mesmerizing. the sheer fullness of them made me wince, thinking of how many needles had gone into that tender flesh, to create such puffiness.

i wanted to hate these women. and i most especially wanted the husband to hate them but there was a problem. they were really, really nice. maybe not the brightest bulbs on the block but they were warm, friendly and funny. their husbands all older, of course, were the typical l.a. men married to those kind of women. one a producer, one a garmento and one a doctor. they were nice enough, and certainly rich enough to maintain the grooming bills of their younger wives, but on the whole they were slightly boring. one of the women kept dancing with the husband (that would be my "the husband") and at the end of the evening told him what a great dancer he was. she then confided that her husband wasn't very good at dancing and was also not that good at other things as well.

normally, i would have been jealous at such a blatant come on from a beautiful younger woman directed at the husband, but i just felt sorry for her. she was a walking, talking barbie doll and she had married her ken. she really had no choice. she did exactly what tall, blond , beautiful women have done since the beginning of time. the problem is that barbie never found out, until it was too late that ken was a bore and barbie's dream house, after a while, started to look a lot like a prison.

Monday, October 1, 2007

we are in sooo much trouble

it looks like yet another presidential candidate has put his foot in it. arizona senator and former war hero john mc cain said in an interview that he would be most comfortable with a christian as president of the united states because, after all, this is a christian nation. later, on being challenged by various jewish groups, mc ccain backtracked and mumbled something about this country being founded on the judeo-christian principles (emphasis this time around on judeo).

these presidential candidates are so full of it that even they don't know anymore when they are screwing with us. they will say anything to anyone as long as what they are saying is what the listener wants to hear.

the vermont ski season is in trouble. it seems that our congress, in making our homeland safe from terrorists, has limited the number of foreign workers that can apply for visas to work in this country. apparently, north america's ski season is highly dependent on foreign workers. i bet even john mc cain didn't know that some illegal aliens are sneaking across our borders, not just to pick tomatoes, but to make our slopes safe for the downward slalom. and my guess is that the illegal aliens didn't have a clue that skiing was a white man's sport founded on christian principles. i am sure senator mc cain would feel much more comfortable if some yale dropout, down on his luck, were running his chair lift. skiing, after all, like the united states should be limited to christians. i mean, let's face it, have you even heard of a mexican ski team?