Monday, December 31, 2007

Saying "no" to Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, etc.

I've had it. It's not just my land line, but my cell and e-mail that have been overloaded with pleas from Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert begging me to appear on their shows.

There was a time I fantasized about appearing on "The Tonight Show" but that was when Johnny Carson was the host, and I imagined him convulsing with laughter at my unexpectedly hilarious stand-up routine and spontaneously inviting me to a place of honor on his couch, which would lead to my becoming a regular and featured for decades to come on "The Best of Carson".

Jay Leno doesn't hold the same allure for me nor do these other guys, maybe because they're younger than I am. It's a profound - and not entirely thrilling - rite of passage when beauty pageant winners, doctors and talk show hosts are all younger than you. But that's not what's keeping me from returning their calls. I support the Writers Guild strike and will not break ranks even if the shows offer to send a car to pick me up.

I'll admit there was an initial flush to be on the receiving end of these desperate requests, which I interpreted to mean late night shows have finally heard how entertaining I can be when talking about blogging, the endless presidential campaign and dealing with menopausal symptoms, but that faded when I learned everyone in my building has been approached along with my cousin Normy, who installs window treatments in a San Antonio suburb.

Get your TIVO's ready for the return of these shows.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Go on a cruise? Not me. I'd rather fly!

Even before this most recent disaster where a Norwegian cruise ship with some 300 people aboard struck an Antarctic glacier, I was cruise-phobic. This also pre-dates the November 23rd accident where a Canadian ship struck an iceberg in the Antarctic's icy waters, forcing all 154 passengers and crew to leave in lifeboats.

The possibility of imminent disaster is not the primary reason I don't go on cruises. Nor is it the fact that cruise ships are famous for returning with a shipload of sick passengers, who are compensated by being given a follow-up free cruise. No, what frightens me is the fear of being confined.

We've been at resorts when ships have docked and I've had to avoid being trampled by hundreds of people determined not to return home without a new watch. Cruise people appear affable...to an extreme. They eagerly share anecdotes about previous vacations and need no urging to pull out small photo albums titled, Grandma's Brag Book.

Not only am I not intrigued by playing shuffleboard, but I don't want to have forced friendships with strangers at mealtimes, let alone in a lifeboat.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"It is what it is" and other expressions that should be outlawed

Who was the first one to say, "It is what it is?" And how did it get traction? For that matter, how did "getting traction" become part of the fabric? (See comment on "traction").

The most widely overused intruder is "like", incorporated as filler repeatedly in every sentence despite its association with the vapid "valley girl".

I bristle when words and expressions catch on, moving from person to person with the ferocity of the common cold. And why "common" cold if there's no "uncommon" cold?

Can't we limit our words to those essential to the message, instead of grabbing onto expressions that serve as the Hamburger Helper of speech, occupying space that could be better used.

Heartened by the success of the campaign to stop smoking, I'm proposing we join forces and butt up against these intruders. I'm not fool enough to go after "like", which has become embedded in the DNA of users, who might be destroyed if "like" were removed from their parlance. But we can each do our part by taking a stand against other pointless speech fillers.

Smokers, however addicted, backed off after enough of us glared, refused to work or be seated near them in restaurants. Raising taxes on cigarettes and isolating them was effective and spared us from exposure to second-hand smoke. So let's organize to protest second-hand expressions, such as:

--"Frankly" or "Quite frankly". Respond to this by asking the speaker if we should assume anything not preceded by this is suspect and less trustworthy. Penalty: ask the offender to contribute $10 to an environmental group, and, yes, that includes Hillary Clinton.

--"It is what it is". This should quickly fall into disgrace if we respond with, "And, conversely, it isn't what it isn't", underscoring the emptiness of the phrase. The fine: $10 to research for any serious disease.

--"Sort of". The current speech tic of choice among those with advanced degrees who are guests on NPR, Sunday morning talk shows and panels. Though they've been to Yaddo and law school, they hope to sound more casual by injecting "sort of" (perhaps replacing "you know") with great regularity. Starting with Candy Crowley, the penalty would be a $10 contribution to their college alumni fund.

--"Having said that". If you said it, we heard it. And if we didn't, it's too late. We can't listen retroactively. Suggested penalty: $10 to any tax-deductible cause.

--"Getting traction". "As it were". "So to speak". "All things considered". This is a democracy so you're free to add your own personal biases. Penalty: a $5 contribution to Greenpeace, a panhandler or anyone who approaches you with a clipboard and cause.

Friday, December 28, 2007

George Bush's response to Benazir Bhutto's assassination: read the Cliff Notes

George W. Bush has never been accused of being eloquent, creative or masterful in the face of crisis, but what can be said is he doesn't appear rattled by events that unsettle others, responding to each situation with the same canned script. Yesterday our president had to interrupt whatever it is he doesn't do at his ranch in Crawford, Texas to make a short, obligatory statement in response to the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

W, attempting to look solemn and presidential, pulled out the speech where he says, "The United States condemns this cowardly act, the work of extremist assassins trying to undermine democracy" and continuing on to demand that those responsible be brought to justice.

The man could have made his job even less demanding by suggesting at the start of his first term that we TIVO each of his speeches -- this one where he condemns a cowardly attack, the one that has him bullying and threatening other world leaders and the third that he delivers after "a good person" has been found guilty of something heinous and has been forced to resign -- which we could all then play on the appropriate occasions. It's unfortunate that Bush's holiday time, which he clearly values, has to be interrupted.

If, when Bush becomes a former president and gets a book deal, it should be "Cliff Notes for an American President".

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Texans like their barbecue and death sentence

Though it’s being widely acknowledged that capital punishment does not appear to lower the crime rate, Texas continues to impose it, accounting for 62% of all cases in the past year. Of the 42 executions nationwide, 26 were in Texas with no other state having put more than three people to death.

Outside of Texas, even supporters of the death penalty recognize there’s been a change in public attitude, a response to the time and expense of the litigation, the possibility of wrongful convictions and the remote chance that someone sent to death row will actually be executed. The awareness of wrongfully imprisoned innocent people and exonerations has caused people to rethink capital punishment.

New Jersey, where the death penalty was recently abolished, hasn’t executed anyone since 1963. Texas may be the place for barbecued ribs, but if you’re planning to commit a capital crime, I’d do it in New Jersey.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Pope Benedict repeats Mike Huckabee's message

Undeterred by the response to the ad featuring Mike Huckabee, who’s been accused of communicating a subliminal message because of shooting the commercial with him in front of a cross saying, “Sometimes it’s nice to pull aside from politics and remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ,” Pope Benedict today urged the holiday crowd to rejoice over the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth.

Oddly, the public seems to feel more open to preaching from Pope Benedict than from Mike Huckabee.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tips on Holiday Tipping

AOL is cheap. I just took their holiday tipping quiz. If I adhered to their guidelines, the attendants in our garage would "key" the car door, my hair colorist would "forget" the formula, the super in our building would release mice in the hall and our newspaper delivery person would toss the paper yet further away.

This chintziness might account for the AOL spam screeners being a disgruntled bunch, which explains why I continue to get Nigerian offers, reminders that my non-existent bank account is in need of being updated and bogus notifications that pretend to have come from paypal, which are "phishing" attempts.

Maybe the AOL amounts work elsewhere, but everything is more costly in New York, particularly celebrating the holidays.

Dog walkers get $100 for a purebred, $150 if they have to suffer the humiliation of tugging around a mutt.

You'll be hailing your own taxis if you don't come through with at least $100 for each surly doorman.

An underappreciated physical trainer, meaning someone who gets less than the cost of one session, has been known to inspire rotator cuff injuries.

The local subway musician expects enough for a dinner at Babbo.

The manicurists at nail salons look sad if you give them less than $50. If you want them to sterilize and use Quick Dry, go higher.

If in doubt: anyone who slows down and makes eye contact should probably get at least $25. If they wish you a happy holiday, double it. If they have a weapon, toss over your wallet and run like hell.

Friday, December 21, 2007

jamie lynne made me do it!

after my last blog entry, i received a lot of flak from people who thought that my self imposed media blackout was irresponsible and immature. no one could believe that i could still be a moral, upstanding, righteous member of the human community without a daily dose of newsprint and tv chatter. i felt so guilty that i decided that maybe my critics were right. maybe i was being selfish by not taking on, every day, my share of anxiety and angst. by not getting my daily dose of the news i was not holding up my end. my friends felt that my avoiding the media just left them more news to have to absorb on their own. so i gave in and bought the new york times.

i must admit, my hands trembled a bit as i held my first newsprint in eleven days. i scanned the front page - in the left hand column, yet another controversy about stem cell research. the other two articles above the fold were about bill richardson's bid for the democratic nomination and china's factories and the pollution they cause. so far, so good and then i turned the paper to read below the fold. first there was a depressing story about how gang members are killing key witnesses before they can testify at trials. then another depressing story about how so many europeans are buying apartments in manhattan that i will never be able to afford one myself. they didn't actually mention me in the article, but i know how to read between the lines. and then i read the last story on the front page of the new york times. it seems, that while i was in my self induced media blackout, brittany spear's sixteen year old sister, jamie lynne, had gone and gotten herself pregnant. and this was on the front page of the new york times!

suddenly, i remembered why i stopped reading the papers and listening to the news. i don't care if brittany's sister got knocked up. i don't care that now, their mother, obviously not mother of the year, is going to have to give up writing her book on parenting that was due to be published next year. i don't care that jamie lynne was some kind of star on some kind of cable network. what i do care about is that the media is making me feel, by covering such stories in such depth, that i should care. and so i am going back into the void. i don't want to read anymore of this trash. but - i must confess that i will still do the sunday crossword puzzle, but only for medicinal purposes. i am told it will help ward off alzheimer's.

"Meet the Press": Al Qaeda's al-Zawahiri becomes media figure

Unlike our administration, Al Qaeda seems eager to respond to questions from journalists, and is inviting them to submit questions to its No. 2 figure, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the first post-9/11 interview of this type to be offered by the terror network.

An ad appeared on an Islamic militant website, suggesting that "individuals, agencies and all media" submit written questions for al-Zawahiri through January 16th, at which time he will answer them asap. Al-Zawahiri, now Al Qaeda's foremost spokesman, has appeared in some 16 videos and audiotapes this year, compared to four for Osama bin Laden, perhaps outshining our press-phobic leader.

Taking a tip from Bush's press conferences, Al Qaeda will have an opportunity to screen questions and choose which to answer. Their online forum may provide an opportunity for Helen Thomas to finally get a question answered.

It will be particularly interesting to see how al-Zawahiri responds to questions Bush typically ducks, such as:

What are you doing about Social Security?

Have you made any mistakes?

Why don't you personally extend condolences to families of victims?

What do you consider torture?

How do you feel about your low ratings in the polls?

Where is Osama bin Laden, and why hasn't he been captured? (This is where Bush asks, "Is that a follow-up question", cracking a snide joke in place of giving a direct response).


One wonders what inspired tthe terrorist organization to launch a media campaign. Did a focus group reveal its image is in need of bolstering? Has it hired a savvy press agent? Is Al-Zawahiri stewing that he wasn't named Time's "Man of the year"?

If al-Zawahiri draws a big audience, might we expect to see him on "The View"? Making peach tarts with Martha Stewart? Promoting a book on "Oprah"? Posting on Facebook or Friendster? We'll know he's found his way to Match.com when we spot a profile reading, "Looking for 72 virgins".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

all i want for christmas is that all the children be well

i spent today at the los angeles children's hospital. i have a young friend whose seven year old son is very ill. no one seems to know exactly what is wrong and so they must sit in the hospital being poked and prodded and doped up, in hopes that someone, will come up with some kind of answer, so they can start treating him and make him better.

the hospital is a scary place and so i decided to sit with my friend and her son and try to distract them. children's hospital is unlike any adult hospital i have ever been in. first off, it is cheerful - the walls are brightly painted and all the nurses wear colorful scrubs and the doctors tell the children to call them by their first names. if you have to be in the hospital, christmas time is not such a bad idea. all day long there are concerts and visiting celebrities and santa's helpers stopping by once or twice a day to make sure every child has a toy or two. today, while i was there, there was a twenty piece mariachi band roaming up and down the halls. i must admit that after the first five minutes of the initial surprise, the music began to grate. mariachi bands do not wear well - at least not without a pitcher of margaritas - but still it was the thought that counts. a couple of hours later the singer robin thicke showed up. none of us knew exactly who he was, but he came in the room, signed an autograph, took a picture with my friend's son and gave him two cds. i think he is famous. it was a nice thing he did even if we didn't know him. anything to break the monotony helps.

a hospital reminds me a lot of a las vegas casino. time has no meaning in either place and you never once see daylight or breathe fresh air. i am only hoping for my friend's son's sake and for all the children, that the odds are better in the hospital than in the casino. i remember sitting, for weeks on end, at my own son's hospital bed. there are no atheists in foxholes or by the side of one's sick child. i prayed to god and made promises that i knew i would probably never keep. i ate shitty hospital food and cried my eyes out on a daily basis. i slept on what the hospital laughingly called a cot. at least during the inquisition they were honest enough to call it what it was - a rack, and i played endless games of "war", "go fish" and when the going got really tough, "old maid". when my son was too sick to play, i just sat and watched him sleep. i watched his chest move up and down and breathed every breathe with him.

my son is well now but i will never forget those endless days and nights of worry and fear. when i left my friend and her son tonight they were cuddled up together on the narrow hospital bed. her big, brave, seven year - too old to let his mother bathe him and to old to have to hold her hand when he crossed the street, was snuggled up in the one place he wanted to be - safe in his mother's arms.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Academy Awards & Golden Globes without Writers: an opera? Reality show?

With the Writers Guild having refused to provide waivers for “The Golden Globes” and “The Academy Awards”, the shows, as they say in Hollywood "have to go on"...but without writers. Trophies can, of course, be presented off camera, obviating the need for writing, which is, ironically, the format for the annual Writers Guild Awards, the premise apparently that writers, unlike actors and children, are meant to be heard and not seen.

If I were charged with revamping the show, my solution would be, “The Oscars are a Slippery Slope” with Jon Stewart, this year's host, flailing around a rink on ice skates. To catch him when he loses his balance, I'd hire Samantha Bee, who hails from Canada, so should be adept on the ice. As presenters I'd have Olympic and professional skaters while award winners would be attached to ropes, lowered and removed from the ice ala the stage version of Peter Pan, a useful device as it would avoid accidents as well as curtail overly long acceptance speeches.

Since the Academy is not being permitted to use film clips, the entertainment between categories would be provided by Sasha Cohen doing her amazing triple lutzes and double toe loops, being careful to remind the talent coordinator to be sure to book Sasha Cohen, not Sacha Baron (Ali G) Cohen.

The Golden Globes is scheduled for January, and with so little time, I’d go with a reality show and have the nominees in each category competing in a variety of ways -- arm wrestling, a bake-off, spelling bee and bathing suit competition -- though the trophies would ultimately go to those who'd already been selected by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Not real? Hey, they're called reality shows, but everyone knows they’re not real. They, in fact, employ writers, but call them “segment producers”. That's right, folks! And the reality writers can't become Guild members because the producers are non-negotiable on that since they rely on reality shows to fill their programming needs during a Writers Guild strike.

If they can't get it together to do these formats, the Motion Picture Academy and Foreign Press Association might consider hiring lyricists and turning their award shows into operas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Unsolved Murders Quiz: (answers upon request)

Authorities have now closed the books on the case of Natalee Holloway, the college student who disappeared while vacationing in Aruba, saying they know who killed her but don’t have enough evidence to press charges, adding yet another unsolved murder to those already plaguing me.

How is it so many people have gotten away with murder? If you're like me, you sympathize with the victims and their families, so consider every detail, trying to come up with your own theories, hoping you'll be more effective than those assigned to the cases.

To see how your memory stacks up against mine, take my unsolved murder quiz:

1. The prime suspect okay, maybe he was just “a person of interest” in the Holloway case was a Dutch student named A) Joran van der Sloot B) Scott Peterson C) Drew Peterson D) Phil Spector

2. The French actress accused of having shot a ski instructor was: A) Brigitte Bardot B) Claudine Longet C) Simone Signoret D) Catherine Deneuve

3. Which cuisine had Robert Blake eaten the night Bonny Lee Bakley, his wife of six months, was murdered? A) Indian B) Italian C)Fusion D) Comfort food

4. An Amber Alert is: A) an instant message from Scott Peterson’s mistress. B) A notice that your yellow baby aspirin are running out C) A statewide bulletin indicating there’s been a kidnapping

5. Name the brand of shoes whose print was found the night Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were murdered: A) Mephisto B) Bruno Magli C) Florscheim D) New Balance

6. The most astonished facial reaction when the O.J. criminal verdict was announced came from: A) Judge Ito B) Marcia Clark C) Kim Goldman D) Robert Kardashian

7. Who lived in O.J. Simpson's guest house? A) Johnny Cochran B) Dr. Henry Lee C) Kato Kaelin D) Mark Fuhrman

8. What color wig was mutilator/murderer Robert Durst wearing when he was apprehended? A) Blonde B) Salt & pepper C) Black D) Brunette F) None, he had a shaved head

9. Chandra Levy, who was murdered in Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, had been involved with: A) Rudy Giuliani B) Bill Clinton C) Larry Craig D) Gary Condit

10. DNA is: A) Human material that can conclusively connect a presence to a crime scene except when Barry Scheck is defending O.J. Simpson B) A trendy LA sushi bar C) the new competition for the BMW D) the name of Phil Spector's home

11. Which TV talk show host proclaimed his to be “the show of record for JonBenet Ramsey? A) Conan O'Brien B) Anderson Cooper C) Geraldo Rivera D) Bill Moyers

12. In 50 words or less, who killed JonBenet Ramsey, and why?

week two of my media blackout

today is the beginning of the second week of my self imposed media blackout. for eight days now i have not looked at the "new york times", "los angeles times" or even the "palisades post". diane and robin, meridith and matt, keith and anderson are dead to me. regis and kelly and the ladies of "the view" are going to have find someone else to watch them. "newsweek", "time", "the new yorker" and "people" are gathering dust in the den.

i hear no news, i read no news and i speak no news. the way i see it, if anything really important happens, like they find the real killer of nicole and ron or paris hilton gets engaged, or we start world war three, i will probably hear about it. otherwise, as far as i am concerned, the world can just go on spinning without me. if we are in a recession or the housing market is in a slump, whether or not i am up to speed on the facts doesn't seem to make much difference. for most of my adult life i have religiously read at least two newspapers a day, watched the local as well as network news and, since the advent of computers, been up to the minute on breaking news stories. here's what i have learned. what i think about george bush or drew peterson or barak obama or jessica simpson doesn't really matter. the fact that i am for, or against, an issue after reading about it or listening to a bunch of talking heads argue about it, doesn't seem to change a thing.

i don't know who first said "ignorance is bliss" (perhaps it was george bush) but i am beginning to think they were on to something. since the black out, i have read two books, cleaned out my closet and alphabetized my spice rack. tomorrow i am thinking about cleaning out my garage and inviting the neighbors (who i haven't had time to speak to in two years ) to tea. while i am baking shortbread, the world might be going to hell in a hand basket, but in my house all will be well. what you don't know can't hurt you. we will see. i will give you an update in another week to see how i, and the world without me, is faring.

Postcard sent in 1913 turns up

“How long will it take to get there?” customers at post offices were asking this week, concerned that the leather wallet, cashmere sweater or chocolate truffles would not arrive in time for the holidays. Clerks were responding that Monday is the last day to send domestic mail if it’s to arrive by Christmas…even though it’s been all over the airwaves that a postcard dated December 23, 1913 just arrived in northwest Kansas.

The card, which was recently found somewhere in Illinois, had been addressed to Ethel Martin and was delivered to her sister-in-law, Bernice Martin. It had been placed inside an envelope and was sent with a one-cent stamp, which I, for one, believe should be refunded given the delay. Where it’s been remains a mystery.

Luckily, it was a greeting card, but consider if the message had been:

“Darling, I am pregnant. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume you want no involvement";

“You’re the winner of the Publishers Clearing House Contest but you must respond to this letter”;

or

“We’re pleased to inform you that you’ve been accepted into the Harvard University freshman class of 1914”.

Monday, December 17, 2007

George Bush on the Saudi rape victim who'd been punished by the courts: "If it had been one of my daughters..."

We’ve never heard our president openly shudder at the thought of one of the Bush girls losing a limb or her life in Iraq nor has he seemingly wondered how he’d have felt if say, Jenna, had been among the Katrina victims left to fend for themselves or imagined his Barbara with no health insurance.

The leader of the free world appears not to agitate when daughters of other Americans suffer, yet now he's weighing in and expressing “astonishment” over the case of the 19-year-old Saudi Arabian female who’d been repeatedly raped by seven men and then sentenced to a prison term and severe beating as punishment for being alone with a man to whom she was neither related nor married.

There's been an international outcry over this incident and human rights workers have been investigating it. It’s not clear if Bush’s reaction, which was not communicated directly to the Saudi king, played any part in the recent pardoning of the rape victim by King Abdullah, the only official empowered to issue a pardon, who did it while insisting that the Saudi legal system is “honest" and "fair".

Can we conclude from this that W would have felt differently if one of the Bush girls had a condition that might benefit from stem cell research? Would leaking have been taken seriously if the story involved Jenna? Would waterboarding be seen as torture if it were being done to Barbara? Or it that atrocities have to occur elsewhere and not be connected to the American administration to inspire reflection and empathy from this president?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fashion Makeovers for South America's gangs

Tattoos, baggy pants and tank tops have given way to the J. Crew look for gang members in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, who are aiming to lower their profile in response to crackdowns by government security forces and citizen vigilante groups. The gangs are known for brazen tactics, such as beheading their enemies and covering buildings and their bodies with gang symbols.

With as many as 100,000 members in Central America and some 30,000 in the United States, this new fashion statement should lead to Gap for Gangs as well as a sequel to "West Side Story". I'd also expect The New York Times to be preparing a Style Supplement featuring clothing comfortable and suitable for those who will be beheading.

Friday, December 14, 2007

see the u.s.a. in your chevrolet .. and that's not all

i am not so sure who came up with the idea of hands free cell phone use for cars (probably a man) but i am here to tell you, as someone who has just spent one hour and twenty minutes driving ten miles, across town in los angeles, that it is a bad idea.

we have all grown used to seeing people screaming , laughing and crying into their cell phones while driving. it has certainly become a way of life in los angeles. you can order dinner, make a date, or break up with a boyfriend, all while speeding along the freeway in your car. but blue tooth technology has raised the stakes. now, with the help of just a tiny little ear piece (hardly noticeable except for the blue flashing light which, from a distance, gives the wearer the look of a martian visitor) a person can now drive their car, talk on the phone and still have one hand free for other activities.

today, sitting in traffic, i had plenty of time to observe my fellow drivers and really see what they were up to. the first multi-tasker i noticed was a young woman putting on mascara while talking on the phone and driving. no big deal. even before cell phones, women have been driving and putting on make-up. i actually think it is now part of the driving test in l.a. if you can parallel park while putting on lip liner you are sure to pass your test.

next, a man in a big mercedes pulled up next to me at a light. he seemed to be shouting into his phone while, and i swear this is true, text messaging. i think he must have been steering with his knees - also an activity that i think is now on the driving test as well. i saw one woman driving, talking and checking for what i think was split ends but it may have been lice and a young man who seemed to screaming at someone while leafing through what looked like a script. he may have been a striking writer so i will cut him some slack.

people are very busy in their cars. the car used to be a place where one could relax. you could put on your favorite music and no one could bother you. now the car is the busiest place in town. i decided that since i am always late getting in on new trends i am going to do some remodeling so i can also multi-task as i drive along. the first thing i am going to do is get rid of the radio and install a fax machine. that way i can yell at my plumber and actually show him the bill where he overcharged me - all while i am on the way to the dry cleaners. next the glove compartment has to go. i mean, who wears gloves anymore anyway? i can make much better use of the space by installing a microwave oven. just think of it. not only can you make handy little snacks while stuck on the freeway, you can also prepare dinner on your way home from work. by the time you pull into your driveway, after calling the husband on the phone to alert him to set the table, you can walk into the house with a fully cooked meal.

there is no end to what we can do in our cars. how about a washer and dryer in the back seat? no one ever uses their back seat anyway. although, come to think of it, perhaps we should not be too hasty in getting rid of the back seat. after all, with all that is going on in the car, one might actually need an assistant to ride along. the back seat would make a perfect office - what with the fax machine up front and a lap top in back...the possibilities are endless.

Performance-enhancing drugs: taking one for the team. Who next?

The report on the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs among Major League Baseball players drives home how lucky I was that they weren’t passing out steroids and human growth hormone to those of us sit-com staff writers required to stay up late, night after night, rewriting scripts. Sleep deprivation, though not specified in our contracts, was understood to be part of the job. What they did provide was Chinese food, however illogical, as the soy-sauce induced MSG lethargy made it harder to sit around a large table and punch up material. Many nights we were there until 3AM without so much as a No-Doz.

Okay, so maybe “Growing Pains” would have been even more hilarious and “Mr. President” might have run long enough for viewers to have been aware of it, but there’s just so much I’ll do for my art. There are shows whose writers were rumored to be taking cocaine, and it’s conceivable that someone on staff with me may have been using illegal drugs, but I’ve always made frequent trips to the bathroom without ever coming across anything unusual.

Increased head size is said to be associated with substance abuse. There are plenty of comedy writers with large heads, but inflated egos aren't as immediately obvious as increased circumferences. Curiously comedy writers, the guys anyway, often wear baseball caps, but even the cockiest can fit into a normal-sized cap.

With the proven success of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, might other businesses encourage employees to take drugs? If workers at major chains -- Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, Toys R Us, Staples, Circuit City and pretty much every phone and technology store we're forced to patronize -- become alert and helpful and allow us to complete a transaction in a reasonable amount of time, we'll have reason to be suspicious.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why the strike is harder on older writers

Unlike all those bright-eyed, younger writers on the picket line -- the ones in Daily Show jackets and Uggs, whose jobs were shut down by the WGA strike -- we older writers don't have the luxury of bosses who understand we're on strike. For those of us who are retired writers, it's non-business as usual, and we have to get back to not working.

We're not dealing with studio executives and show runners. We have obligations, and not everyone tolerates our being unavailable. The strike has stretched on, and getting cranky with me are:

Radiologists scheduled to scan all my body parts (invariably necessitating other follow-up pictures and procedures);

The periodontist, who gets aggressive if I don't have regular scalings;

My fitness trainer, who'll replace me with another client if I don't adhere to our schedule;

Volunteer groups I've committed to;

Classes I attend to prevent my brain from atrophying;

And there are, of course, for people my age some number of memorial services and shiva calls that conflict with picketing times, which is all to say that working writers, who aren't expected to turn up anywhere, may find it easier to picket than those of us who are "retired".

Monday, December 10, 2007

Germany: "Scientology is not a religion". Me: "It's also not funny".

Many countries have refused to recognize the Church of Scientology as a religion, and now German's Interior Ministers are accusing the group of trying to secure political power and influence, calling it a money-making cult, and looking for grounds to ban it. I'm with the Germans when it comes to Scientology, which has been deemed fraudulent, corrupt, intimidating and dangerous. But I have other issues as well.

Scientologists aren't funny. There are no jokes that starts with, “A rabbi, a priest and a Scientology minister go into a bar..." Jerry Seinfeld experimented briefly with the ersatz "religion" years ago, but realized his material would work better with Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Woody Allen, Jon Stewart and Larry David than Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta and Kelly Preston. The religion promises happiness. How can you be happy without laughing?

And what's a religion with no history, saints, resurrections or miracles? Scientologists have nothing to put on stained glass windows! The same could be said of Quakers, a group also light on icons and stand-up comics, but they're a legitimate, peace-loving force, deserving respect and admiration. Quakers don't bilk their members for bucks, plus they're the best at running non-competitive schools.

Scientology was founded in 1953, by L. Ron Hubbard. L. Ron Hubbard is a name for a golf pro or failed, science fiction writer (which he was). If you want to inspire followers, you should be called Jesus Christ, Maharishi, Mohammed, Moses, Confucius, nothing more mundane than Martin Luther.

I'm suspicious of religions that work in airports, especially when they want to hook you up to an electropsychometer purportedly to measure your spiritual state with sessions costing as much as $1,000 an hour. If other religions require machines, they're apt to be blenders and, depending on your persuasion, used when making potato latkes or mixing drinks.

The controversy over Scientology is not new. Time did a huge expose, calling it the most ruthless, terroristic, litigious and lucrative cult, extracting more money from its members than any other religion. Amazingly, they do this with no jewelry.

Scientologists don't get to wear a gold cross or a diamond-studded star of David. They have no cookbooks, no brisket or ham recipe passed down through the generations, no holidays where you take off from school and exchange presents. Their only perk is they never have to fast. Does that constitute "happiness"?

the luck of the draw

today was my least favorite day of the year. it was mammogram day and though i am still as weak as a kitten from this never ending virus that refuses to leave, i bravely showered, remembered not to put on perfume or deodorant, dressed and drove my self off to the radiologist. dead man walking. though i have absolutely no reason to fear breast cancer - no tiny lumps found during a self exam in the shower - no mother, sister, grandmother or aunt with the disease, i still face this day every year with dread.

i don't know, maybe it is those silly little blue robes they make you wear. after you change into one of those things and you are taken into the waiting room with three or four other blue robed women, you immediately bond. a sisterhood is formed. though names are never exchanged, we all hold our breath as the nurse walks out and calls a name. if a woman is asked to wait - the radiologist wants to talk to her - we all start to reassure her. sometimes total strangers hold hands. sometimes, in this blue robed hell, a strangers touch is all you need to keep from losing it completely.

today i was just not in the mood to have my breasts smashed, hard, between two plexiglas plates. today i did not see any humor in the technician telling me, after she had placed my left breast in a death grip, "don't move", as if i could go anywhere. today i was in no way ready to have breast cancer. i didn't, but the woman sitting next to me did. she was in her forties and minus the blue robe was quite well dressed. she sported a very expensive haircut and an even more expensive purse. large diamond studs adorned each lobe and the size of her wedding ring let one know that she was deeply loved, or at least, well married to a very wealthy man. it didn't matter. the blue robe made us all one. the diamonds and the leather goods could not protect her from the evil little lump growing inside. her eyes filled. i tired to reassure her. they would have to do further tests - it could be nothing. she nodded as though anything i could say at that moment, or for that matter, anyone could say at that moment, would make a difference, and then i took her hand. i just held it and our eyes locked. neither one of spoke. i squeezed her hand and she squeezed back. then the nurse came to take her to the doctor. "thank you" she mouthed as she walked away. "good luck" i mouthed back.

the nurse came out to tell me my test was fine and i could get dressed. in the dressing room i took off the blue robe, threw it in the bin and started to cry. not loud gulping sobs - just the tight throat, dripping tears kind of crying. grateful it wasn't me that the doctor had wanted to see and sad for the woman he had. another year and another bullet dodged. i walked in here not in the mood to have breast cancer and i didn't. i bet that young woman wasn't in the mood to have it either.

Google: better than a psychic or marriage counselor

For those of us who aren’t intuitive about directions and become disoriented pretty much anywhere below Canal Street in Manhattan, as well as in most of the other boroughs, Google, bless their virtual souls, has come to the rescue. Using our BlackBerrys and Smartphones, we can ask where we are, and Google will answer far more graciously than my husband, who barks when I, who hog the driving, ask, "Which way?"

"How many times have you been at this intersection?" is what he'll say, when I'm hoping for a simple "left" or "right".

"Why don't you learn to use landmarks?" is another favorite.

"Which one is the Williamsburg Bridge?" he asks, resenting that I think of all three downtown bridges as the Brooklyn Bridges. Okay, maybe it's a serious flaw, but Google, who can pinpoint my location by reading the nearest cell tower, is more forgiving and willing to answer my questions without cursing.

Google is always there for me, never losing patience. I'm counting on Google to develop whatever it is - software or hardware - so that they can branch out and be there for us in our neediest moments, not just geographical, to answer things like:

Where did I leave my reading glasses?

Will the installer come in the morning, or afternoon?

Has my teenager, who was supposed to be home two hours ago, been given a date rape drug?

Can you help find our lost dog?

Is my lover running around on me?

Where can I find a parking space?

Should I hold out hope that the contractor is really coming, or is he on another job or in court?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

George Bush: Say "I'm sorry"...& other resolutions we need in 2008

Each year I do some version of the same resolutions, mostly having to do with carbs and being less judgmental, but in 2008 I'm becoming more ambitious. Instead of addressing my flaws, I'm making resolutions for those whose footprints have had greater negative impact than mine. Here is a sampling:

Those of you who seek revenge in malls, schools and workplaces...even if you've gotten fired by Mc Donald's or are depressed about something else, no more shooting up...unless you have Ann Coulter in sight. And while we're at it, no more new malls. Nothing good ever happens in a mall.

Doctors, if I can get there on time, so can you. We're the ones who have to travel to come to you, remember?

Stop sending out catalogs. Those of you who agree with me can go online and remove yourselves from the list. There's a website that allows you to do this though I can't remember the name. Okay, one resolution for me: do more crossword puzzles.

Lindsay, Brittany, Paris and the rest of you with cutesy names (you know who you are even if I don't)...use your get out of jail/rehab card and do something in addition to drinking Cristal, getting arrested and being photographed.

Drug companies, stop being greedy and make the meds affordable. You Viagra people, be assured I don't want a larger penis.

Waiters, tell us the specials but we're okay to wonder whether you're Kevin or Brian. Nothing personal, but I eat out a lot and have run out of space in the lobe that stores names.

Let's get rid of telephone tapes that start off, "Si quiere continuar en espanol..." as well as telephone solicitors, starting with Brooklyn yeshivas and Marty, the carpet cleaner.

Peterson guys, if you want to dump a wife, divorce her. Murder is overkill. Women, think twice before marrying a Peterson. Ah, add Simpson to the list.

No more terrorist attacks. You heard me. We're all pouring liquids into tiny bottles before vacations and waiting on long lines at airport security. You've won, ok? Go celebrate. It may take some cleaning up, but it's possible to find virgins without martyring yourselves.

Overly zealous mothers who take it upon yourselves to harass girls you believe are competing with your daughters, get into therapy and find lives of your own. It's not in the job title of "mothering" to do battle with other people's kids.

Politicians? You may have faith, but how about restoring ours? George Bush, if you care about your legacy, start by saying, "I'm sorry" to us all. You've done serious damage in the last seven years and you have only one more to try to redeem yourself.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

nothing speaks of the holiday season like canned ham

now that balducci's is selling hanukah ham, proudly advertised in it's front window on 14th street, i guess we shouldn't be that surprised that president bush is doling out his usual gift of christmas bologna.

i am actually embarrassed for this man that i hate so much. his poor, beleaguered, ineffectual press officer, while adorable, one must admit, is so in over her head i keep wanting to throw her a life preserver. i never thought i would say this but i am beginning to miss karl rove. at least when the "architect" was around the bull shit they served us didn't ring quite so hollow. once again george is proving the old adage correct. "never send a boy in to a man's job."

while the lies keep piling up around him like yule logs, one can only hope that he figures a way out of this mess he created because, like him or not, at this point, if he goes down we go down. it is to late to impeach him, so all we can pray for now is that his term of office ends before a third world war begins.

Can we get rid of December?

I'd like to eliminate December. It's a month of dry skin, sore throats, open houses, forced festivity, cards from those who've dented my car, wrecked my hair and erratically delivered the newspaper to remind me it's time to tip them. December starts earlier each year, with decorations, traffic snarls and overcrowded stores starting in November.

It's a month of junk mail, catalogs featuring costumes for the dog and tiny boxes of chocolate truffles for $325. Mixed in are those annual, holiday letters from people who would no longer recognize you on the street that begin by thanking the Lord for another good year, everyone is fine, “give or take a few aches and pains, but what else can we expect at our age?” Using festive fonts and colors, it goes into tales about trips to Graceland and Las Vegas, what's been added to their homes and builds to boasting about Kate's backhand and Alexander's academic achievements.

If only December could go into the Spam folder.

Friday, December 7, 2007

From the "shtup bauble" to the "push present": women who need medals for everything

A piece titled, “A Bundle of Joy Isn’t Enough?” in this week's New York Times is about a new practice of husbands giving women gifts, often jewelry, to reward them for having endured pregnancy and delivery.

No one is certain how this practice started, but I suspect I know the woman who conceived of it moments after conceiving. She’s one of those women who feel no occasion is complete unless it's commemorated with a gift that requires insuring. “For Cinco de Mayo?” I imagine them cooing as they show their husbands photos of a ring they haven't yet acquired.

This “baby mama gift” is illogical for those of us who feel it’s a privilege to experience carrying and giving birth to a baby. It also ignores the partner who's going to be assembling furniture, mobiles, anything battery operated and Tiny Tykes playthings…without expecting reciprocal cufflinks. The article makes no mention of those mothers who have more kids than fingers and could run out of space as well as what to do for the new mom who’s having post-partum depression. Is she entitled to a more serious piece of jewelry to compensate for the misery?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

here is one thing that is not george bush's fault

the writers strike is effecting those of us on the west coast as well. while neither the husband nor i are members of the guild, we are definitely being affected by the trickle down. in my case, it is my sanity that is in jeopardy.

last night, just as i was dozing off, the husband switched on the television. it is his habit to watch the opening monologue of david letterman and i have gown used to falling asleep to his jokes. suddenly i heard an unfamiliar voice. my eyes sprung open and i saw, what i thought to be, jay leno, but not. "what's wrong with him?" i asked the husband. "nothing, he looks good".

he didn't look good, he looked weird. i couldn't put my finger on it. he had either gained or lost weight, dyed his hair, had his eyes done, his face lifted, something. i kept asking the husband, who kept shushing me, trying to listen to jay's monologue. i shushed and then i actually heard jay - he was talking about the trial of the century - the o.j. trial! it was a different century. this show was taped in 1995. jay looked so weird because he was thirteen years younger.

i wasn't crazy. jay didn't look weird, he just looked young. which, of course led me to thinking how different i must look. i made a mental note to myself to not see anyone i know who i haven't seen in the last thirteen years. and then i thought about how life has a way of evening things out. here was jay leno, who according to all reports has not exactly been a hero to his co-workers during this strike, being outed, on national t.v. as the old man he is. i don't think anyone would have noticed how old leno had gotten had we not been forced to confront the young leno.

so tonight, if all goes well i will sleep. the husband will watch david letterman reruns (and david always looks the same) and i will drift off peacefully knowing god's in the heavens and all right with the world.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Scenes From A Marriage: as affected by the WGA strike

Though my husband and I worked as a scriptwriting team, ours is a mixed marriage with him belonging to Writers Guild East while I remain a member of Writers Guild West. Our families accepted this, and we raised our son on both coasts, exposing him to the L.A. Farmers Market as well as to New York's Zabars, giving him the option of choosing a coast as an adult. Indications are he'll go with the East Coast, perhaps because he prefers smoked chubs to sprouts.

The Writers Guild strike has introduced a problem in our relationship. It's going longer than we'd anticipated and we hadn't stockpiled enough anecdotes, jokes and witty observations. Prohibited from creating new material, we are, like The Daily Show, forced to resort to dated quips about Theresa Heinz Kerry and Kato Kaelin, tell anecdotes that happened during the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations and resurrect arguments from 2005 as to whether or not it's worth getting up at 4 AM to go to the fish market in Tokyo.

George Bush, Intelligence & Iran: what it says about him

“He’s not stupid,” someone assures me almost daily about the prez, not to suggest that he’s a competent president, but to warn me not to underestimate him. The other night a Washington insider reminded those of us opening a bottle of red wine to help us cope with this latest Bush mess, “He’s a dry drunk”.

I’m not entirely sure what the phrase means to her, but I construed it as, “Every day is a struggle as he fears he’s at risk of reverting to drinking”. If he doesn’t trust himself, that would explain his inability to trust Iraq, Iran or intelligence, maybe anything that begins with an “i” (which would include addiction issues).

His premise -- and stated reason for maintaining the same policy towards Iran regardless of reports that they curtailed their uranium enrichment program – is if you’ve done something before, you’re likely to do it again. I'm frightened by George Bush's theory, fearing he’s determined to repeat what he did to Iraq in Iran. Would the country be less threatening if it had continued to be called "Persia" and not something that begins with an "i"?

Monday, December 3, 2007

If I'd had sex with Larry Craig, I wouldn't admit it

Somewhere between eight and thirteen men have reported having had sex with Sen. Larry Craig or been the target of his sexual advances during his political career. The Idaho lawmaker, an opponent of gay rights, called the allegations "completely false” and denied being gay at a news conference.

One of the men identified in the report, Mike Jones, 50, described as a former male escort, was the focus of the sex scandal involving the Rev. Ted Haggard, the disgraced leader of Colorado's New Life Church. He claims that Craig paid him $200 for sex though he does acknowledge that being identified with Larry Craig would get publicity for a book he’s written about his experience with Haggard.

My reflections:

How long a layover did Craig have at the airport? Why didn't he hang out at the Cinnabon counter, like the rest of us?

$200 for sex? Haven't the rates kept up with the cost of living? You could make that stuffing envelopes or by selling an old platter on e-bay.

Don't writers hire publicists to promote a book? Should we be expecting Philip Roth to claim he had sex with Larry Craig?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

what women don't eat in los angeles

when we were moving from new york to los angeles, i knew i would have a lot of adjusting to do. the husband said to me, over my tears, "it's not as though we are moving to china". well, actually, it was. china without chinese food. on sunday night in los angeles they ate mexican.

but i am a quick study and i easily transitioned from the egg roll to the burrito. while still very much a new yorker, exiled in los angeles, i don't know, it must have been the stockholm syndrome or something, but suddenly, i found myself identifying with my captors. i kept my children out of school so i could drive in the car pool lane on the freeway and i'd stop for jaywalkers rather than run them over, they way i had been taught in my new york drivers ed class. one day at lunch, i ordered a salad, they way they do - dressing on the side. and then it hit me, to my horror, that i really wanted it that way. i had become one of them. i had crossed over.

eating in los angeles is unlike eating anywhere else on the planet. it's not about eating. it's about what you don't eat, what you can't eat and what you won't eat. everyone there is allergic to something. that's why the waiter always tells you first what is not in the specials so that susan, who develops hives from cilantro and lynn who swells from gluten and marcy, who swears that sesame seeds induce nightmares, can order with abandon. a referendum has been proposed by governor arnold schwarenegger to declare california a lactose free zone. people who consider themselves racially tolerant, have come down with irritable bowel syndrome, at just the thought of a cheese monger moving into their gated community.

women in los angeles are nothing if not committed to their eating disorders. they would rather die than defy their nutritionists. last month, as i was emerging from a stall in the ladies room at spago, i came across a choking faye dunaway. one hand clutching the sink, the other grabbing her throat, turning blue, she was obviously in need of help. i had just had a manicure, so the heimlich maneuver was out of the question, but i did the next best thing. i offered her a roll from my doggie bag, telling her it would help force down whatever was lodged in her throat. the next day's headlines flashed before my eyes. "drama queen saved by a kaiser roll!" those dreams of glory, not to mention what i was sure would be a sizable cash reward, were quickly dashed when faye looked at the roll with disbelief and then at me with disdain, before spitting out "I DON"T EAT CARBS"!!!!!!